A People’s Art History of the United States

250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements

Nicolas Lampert

A New Press People’s History
Howard Zinn, Series Editor

When artists join social movements, they become agitators in the best sense of the word, and their art becomes less about the individual and more about the common vision and aspirations of many. Their art challenges power and becomes part of a culture of resistance.

Most people outside of the art world view art as something that is foreign to their experiences and everyday lives. In a brilliant new edition to The New Press People’s History series, A People’s Art History of the United States places art history squarely in the rough-and-tumble of politics, social struggles, and the fight for justice from the colonial era through the present day. In doing so, it presents a provocative and fascinating alternative art history that shows us how activist art often emerges from the streets and social movements – and communities that produced these movements – and exists far beyond the confines of traditional art institutions.

Combining historical sweep with detailed examinations of individual artists and their work, author and artist Nicolas Lampert offers a groundbreaking history of radical art. With over two hundred images, A People’s Art History of the United States offers a politically charged narrative that spans the conquest of the Americas, the American Revolution, slavery and abolition, feminism, the civil rights movements, and the contemporary antiwar movement, among others.

Through dramatic retellings of important historical events, readers will be introduced to key works of American radical art, including the graphic agitation of the abolitionist movement, photographs of the Lower East Side housing conditions, the Haymarket monument controversy, the WPA-Federal Art Project, Gran Fury and ACT UP NYC, the Yes Men, and more. A People’s Art History of the United States is nothing less than a vital alternative education for anyone interested in the powerful role that visual culture plays in our society – and in the ongoing culture of resistance.

November 5, 2013
hardcover / e-book
7 1/2 x 9 1/4, 366 pages

978-1-59558-324-6 (hardback) 978-1-59558-931-6 (e-book)

200-plus black-and-white images

list price for hardcover edition: $35

Update: The paperback version will be released by The New Press on October 6, 2015. List price: $21.95

People’s Art History of the US: Table of Contents

Series forward by Howard Zinn



1. Parallel Paths on the Same River

2. Visualizing a Partial Revolution

3. Liberation Graphics

4. Abolitionism as Autonomy, Activism, and Entertainment

5. The Battleground Over Public Memory

6. Photographing the Past During the Present

7. Jacob A. Riis’s Image Problem

8. Haymarket: An Embattled History of Static Monuments and Public Interventions

9. Blurring the Boundaries Between Art and Life

10. The Masses on Trial

11. Banners Designed to Break a President

12. The Lynching Crisis

13. Become the Media, circa 1930

14. Government Funded Art: The Boom and Bust Years for Public Art

15. Artists Organize

16. Artists Against War and Fascism

17. Resistance or Loyalty: The Visual Politics of Miné Okubo

18. Come Let Us Build a New World Together

19. Party Artist: Emory Douglas and the Black Panther Party

20. Protesting the Museum Industrial Complex

21. “The Living, Breathing Embodiment of a Culture Transformed”

22. Public Rituals, Media Performances, and Citywide Interventions

23. No Apologies: Asco, Performance Art, and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement

24. Art is Not Enough

25. Anti-Nuclear Street Art

26. Living Water: Sustainability Through Collaboration

27. Art Defends Art

28. Bringing the War Home

29. Impersonating Utopia and Dystopia