Friday, November 28, 2008


Frank Cieciorka, the man who designed the fist emblem for the New Left, died on Monday. He was an early opponent of American involvement in Vietnam, opposed the Johnson intervenion in the Dominican Republic, went to Mississippi during Freedom Summer in '64, became a field secretary for SNCC.

When he returned north after Freedom Summer he made a first woodcut of the now-famous fist, modeling it (of course) on previous 20th-century leftist fists. Only later did he realize that the design was being adopted everywhere and by seemingly everyone. His version of the first for the 1967 Stop the Draft Week was the one that really became iconic.

From the New York Times obit: Mr. Cieciorka had seen the clenched-fist salute when he participated in a Socialist rally in San Francisco. When he returned from Mississippi, “the fist was a natural for the first woodcut in a series of cheap prints,” he noted in an interview with Lincoln Cushing, a political art archivist and historian. “It wasn’t until we made it into a button and tossed thousands of them into crowds at rallies and demonstrations that it really became popular,” he continued.

Later he did watercolors and painted rural California landscapes.