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Exhibition Guide

The posters featured in No Human Being is Illegal were produced during the last 5 decades. They comment on the consequences of U.S. military interventions abroad, international trade policies like NAFTA, and domestic legislative responses like Simpson-Rodino or Arizona’s SB 1070.


Historical references—including those about Chinese railroad workers of the nineteenth century, early twentieth century Italian and Jewish women garment workers who created unions in sweatshops, and the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II—are represented by commemorative posters. Their purpose is to educate about past injustices, connect with the experiences of recent immigrants, and motivate the viewer to become involved.


It is sobering to look at five decades of immigrant rights posters and see that the same issues continue to be depicted.  Yet it is vital to celebrate the successes of immigrant activists, notably the early 20th century labor organizers, mid to late 20th century United Farm Workers (UFW) and Justice for Janitors, and the 21st century Dreamers. The contributions of immigrant activists have been central to achieving safer working conditions and more sustainable wages, and all of us have benefitted from their courageous actions. Yet their activism continues to take place in the midst of violence sometimes resulting in death, and U.S. government repression including imprisonment or deportation.


These powerful graphics remind us of our immigrant heritage, and challenge us to bring the immigrant experience closer to the promise on the Statue of Liberty. This exhibition is about discrimination and prejudice, but it is also about hope, commitment, and determination. The posters record struggles but they also record victories, and the ability of people to successfully organize for change. They are reclaiming the power of art to communicate and inspire people to action.


Note: Images appear in the order intended for exhibition display. No Human Being is Illegal! is available as a traveling exhibition using laminated, digital reproductions or the original vintage posters. Please contact us for more information on bringing an exhibition to your institution. 



To view the full No Human Being is Illegal exhibition with annotations, browse the publication below. Use the toolbar to navigate between pages, view fullscreen, and search annotations for key words and phrases.

Press Related to No Human Being is Illegal!

Considering the Immigrant Experience through Political Posters, Laura C. Mallonee, Hyperallergic, Brooklyn, New York, USA, June 2 2015

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