US pro civil rights artist Frank Cieciorka dies

This video from the USA says about itself:

Clinical Associate Professor Ralph Fertig of the USC School of Social Work talks to his class about being a Freedom Rider in the South, sharing a very graphic description of the time he spent in a Selma, Alabama jail.

From ART FOR A CHANGE blog in the USA:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Frank Cieciorka: RIP

On November 24, 2008, artist Frank Cieciorka (che-CHOR-ka) died from emphysema at the age of 69. Starting in the 1980s he began to be recognized for his watercolor paintings of northern California landscapes, but it would be one of his early graphic art designs that assured him a place in history.

The iconic clenched fist has long been a symbol of the international left, its usage going back at least until 1917. But the symbol was transformed and revitalized in 1965 by Cieciorka, whose rendition of the pictogram struck a cord with a new generation of activists involved in the civil rights and antiwar struggles.

A New Yorker, Cieciorka came to California in 1957 to attend the arts program at San Jose State College. Upon graduation in 1964 he became a volunteer in Freedom Summer, the major civil rights campaign launched in ’64 to help African Americans register to vote in Mississippi. That same year the Ku Klux Klan kidnapped, tortured, and murdered three Freedom Summer volunteers – James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. From 1964-65 Cieciorka also served as a field secretary in Mississippi and Arkansas for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC – pronounced “snick”), one of the primary civil rights organizations of the day.

Cieciorka returned to the San Francisco Bay area in 1965, and created a woodcut print inspired by his experiences as a civil rights activist in the deep South. His image, simply titled Hand, made its way onto posters and flyers, but according to the artist, “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”. I wore one of Cieciorka’s buttons as a sixteen-year-old, and I still regard his woodcut print as one of the most striking symbols to have come out of the turbulent 60s.

For more on the life and times of Frank Cieciorka, visit Lincoln Cushing’s Docs Populi.

“Neshoba: the Price of Freedom”, the powerful documentary opening at the Cinema Village on Friday in NY and at the Laemmle Music Hall in LA on September 10th, gets its title from the Mississippi County where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were slain in 1964. Chaney was an African-American from Mississippi while the other two men were New York Jews. There was evidence that Chaney was tortured and then buried alive in the earthen dam where all three were eventually discovered: here.

After Over Four Decades, Justice Still Eludes Family of 3 Civil Rights Workers Slain in Mississippi Burning Killings: here.

4 thoughts on “US pro civil rights artist Frank Cieciorka dies

  1. Dear Kitty, I had lost track of an old high school friend; Frank Cieciorka. I started looking for him to see if I could restart a conversation with him. To my grief I found him too late. He had died in 2008. As I looked for more info as to what he did with his life I found out he continued with his calling as an artist. I knew when he moved to San Jose he became involved in several causes. Then I clicked on one of his images and was redirected to your site. WHAT A SMALL WORLD. I knew he was involved in socialist causes. I am a fiscal conservative and am moderate on social issues (as I am sure you are aware by now). In any event, thank you for posting about my old friend from Johnson City. He was a handsome kid, a good kid and a fun loving kid when I knew him. From what I can gather he continued with those traits. I have a hole in my heart knowing that I had not searched for him before he passed from this earth. He impressed everyone he met. A very special person.


  2. Pingback: Ku Klux Klan murder in Mississippi, USA, fifty years ago | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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