I AM A MAN
It's Martin Luther King Jr. day and I've been researching a variety of signs from the civil rights movement this morning. There's a sign containing "I AM A MAN" with "AM" underlined, which is the only part of the sign that contains a major typographical difference aside from the condensed typeface of the second line. There are only 4 words, seven letters, and 2 colors in this sign, yet "am" holds great power over how the words are said aloud during a march and what the sentence means. The poster harks back to another poster designed in 1837 by Josiah Wedgwood for the American Anti-Slavery Society, containing the words "AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?" written on a banner below a chained slave begging upward toward God or perhaps another person standing. Those words are from John Greenleaf Whittier's antislavery poem, "Our Countrymen in Chains", written in 1834.
This fusion of design, poetry, and history forms the culture we experience and inevitably contributes to our empirical understanding of the world around us.