Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster

Propaganda is used to mobilize people in times of war. Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster presents 33 posters, most targeting Africans and African-American civilians during such times. These carefully designed works of art were aimed at mobilizing people of color in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in their homeland. Witness changing messages on race and politics through propaganda from the American Civil War to the African independence movements in this innovative exhibition.

Through the use of touch-screen interactives and video, visitors can experience the collection in several ways as they explore the changing face of propaganda in four distinct eras:

  • American Civil War: Propaganda posters created during the Civil War inspired African-American men to join the Union army and fight enslavement. As the nation rebuilt itself, these posters commemorated their heroics.
  • World War I: Even after the US abolished slavery, segregation denied many the equality they sought. In Africa, only Liberia and Ethiopia escaped European rule. Despite this, the First World War forced the US and Europe to mobilize their black population.
  • World War II: During the Second World War, the Allies used propaganda to brand the war as a fight for freedom against Nazi racism. African American soldiers broke mane barriers, the Tuskeegee Airmen took to the sky, and the US Army appointed its first African-American general.
  • Colonialism and the African Independence Movements: Many European nations used propaganda to entice colonized Africans to join colonial armies. However, following the Second World War, Africans turned their attention toward independence and gained international support through the propaganda of socialist governments in Russia and China.


Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster from Penn Museum on Vimeo.

Availability schedule

Spring 2015 - Early Summer 2015   Available 
Late Summer 2015 - Fall 2015   Available


Gallery Space Minimum 150 linear feet.
Venue Period 12 weeks. Every effort will be made to accommodate special requests from borrowers.

Thirty three original posters, custom-framed and wall-ready.

Informational graphic banners and labels, including timelines. 

Archival footage of military recruitment films aimed at African Americans.

Interactive touchscreen station to explore distinctive poster iconography.

Episode of the PBS program, History Detectives, highlighting the poster, "Our Colored Heroes."

Shipping To be arranged by the Penn Museum. Shipping costs are prorated among venues.
Insurance Covered by the Penn Museum.
Courier required. Qualified staff at borrowing institution will help in installation and deinstallation of the exhibition.
Requirements Facility report must be submitted for review before approval of loan.

Borrowing institutions must complete incoming and outgoing condition reports.

The borrower must adhere to temperature and light controls for this exhibit.
Contact Traveling Exhibits Coordinator
(215) 746-6976
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3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-4000


Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
First Wednesdays: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Monday: CLOSED


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