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Monday, December 15, 2008

''PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol''

The other day, I was listening to WNYC, my local public radio and they announced an upcoming show about the influence that professors have on the political views of students. I snorted in laughter as I remembered asking my sculpture prof what that button he wore meant. He explained in his condescending way (all the profs. were men by the way. A very sexist department.) It was a peace symbol and it was in the midst of the Viet Nam war. I later got more radical than he did and he criticized me when I was on local television talking about the women's movement (which had quite radical arms in those days.) 
Peace, Mr, Mitchel, wherever you are.

So today is the 50th anniversary of the symbol of that little button..
National Geographic Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Peace Sign with ''PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol''

WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)--
The peace symbol. It is recognized around the globe and has become
an enduring cultural icon. For five decades, millions of people
worldwide, regardless of race or religious beliefs, have looked to the
peace sign to unite them. And the symbol's appeal continues with each
succeeding generation.

The story of the peace sign began in the spring of 1958 when peace
activists, clergy and Quakers in Great Britain organized a rally to
draw attention to the testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons by
some of the world's most powerful countries. Gerald Holtom, a textile
designer and commercial artist from Twickenham, suggested the
demonstrators carry posters and banners with a simple visual symbol he
had designed. He created the symbol by combining the semaphore letters
N and D, for nuclear disarmament, and on Feb. 21, 1958, the symbol was
accepted by the District Action Committee.

On April 4, 1958, 5,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square to
show support for the Ban the Bomb movement, then walked to the town of
Aldermaston, site of an atomic weapons research plant. The first peace
signs appeared during that march and a second Aldermaston march the
following year. From there it took flight, appearing on flags,
clothes, even scratched on walls and signposts, all over Europe.

To commemorate this anniversary, National Geographic Books is
publishing in April a tribute tracing the world-famous pictogram as it
evolved from a 1950s anti-nuke emblem to a defining icon still widely
seen and used today. PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol ($25), by Ken
Kolsbun, with Michael Sweeney, is a one-of-a-kind story about the
origin of the peace sign, the man who created it and its enduring
relevance through the past 50 years.

Easy to remember and reproduce, the symbol soon crossed borders
and cultures in a phenomenal way. It became a classic symbol, an icon
of peace for the people. Like a chameleon, the symbol took on
additional meanings during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement,
the environmental movement, women's and gay rights movements and the
two Iraqi wars.

Kolsbun is a photographer, writer, historian, peace activist, game
inventor, landscape architect, husband and father who continues to be
active in the peace movement.

National Geographic Society
Alison Reeves, 202-857-7793


mompriest said...

I had no idea that this symbol was only a year younger than I....thought it was a 1960's idea...

karlajean said...

cool post! thanks!