Racial justice signs destined for Smithsonian exhibit

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In case you needed further proof that we’re at a key moment in U.S. history, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has begun collecting artifacts for an eventual exhibit about the demonstrations for racial justice that followed the death of George Floyd.

Aaron Bryant is a photography and social protest historian at the Smithsonian’s African American History and Culture Museum.

"It could be a tee-shirt; we are looking at the masks that folks are wearing saying, 'I can't breathe'. It could be a baseball cap, a button or protest signs."

One site that provided ample material was a tall fence erected outside the White House, which demonstrators plastered with posters, paintings and photos to honor African Americans who lost their lives at the hands of police.

Many graffiti artists have also created protest murals across the country using boarded up businesses as their canvas.

Bryant says what he sees out on the streets today is vastly different from the protest artwork of the 1960s civil-rights era.

Back then, most of the signs were created by professional artists and graphic designers.

“Today people are making signs by hand...and running out the door and joining protests. So, you have a lot of diversity in what you see."

Another major difference is the global reach of the protests, with artwork dedicated to Floyd popping up in places as far afield as Syria and Paris, even though he died in Minneapolis.

“If I had to say what I see mostly in this art is this idea of community, humanity, people coming together to make positive social change. And I think those are positive messages that will last for generations."