Poster: 389 Years Ago (updated).

( Update: De-typo'd image above, thanks Jess!) The guy who created those Death and Taxes posters has created a new gem: "389 YEARS AGO." Jess Bachman explains, "It's not for the policy wonks but I think people will love it. Probably the only thing with Obama's name on it that you might keep around after he is out of office. Anyways, if black history is your thing, or even if it's not, you can't deny the progress we have ALL made." They're $35 while the first printing lasts, plus S/H.


  1. Hate to pee into the cheerios, but “Chiefs” for the Colin Powell blurb is spelled wrong. very cool poster, regardless.

  2. And there’s a grocer’s apostrophe with the mention of the Harvard Law Review electing “it’s first black president.”

    Beautiful poster idea; shame no one proofread it.

  3. It’s a great infographic; my only wish is that it didn’t convey that the struggle is somehow over now that we have a black president. (I’m sure it’s unintended, but as a timeline it suggests some finality.) Here’s to appreciating how far we’ve come without losing sight of what still needs to be done.

  4. And they say America is a racist country. Looks more like a 389-year history of victories by the forces of anti-racism.

  5. @#3, I think that’s a fair observation, and I agree. It’s a really beautiful graphic work, IMO, and I’m sure Jess will be correcting the typos, that’s also fair crit.

  6. Thanks for the corrections!

    I tend to crowdsource my proofreading before it goes to print (monday)

    Keep em’ coming,

    Jess (the guy who made the poster)

  7. Great graphics.
    Great how short lived racism will have been in the US…
    Most countries/empires practice or practiced slavery and institutional racism for much longer…
    Proof it.

  8. dammit stevekiwi @9! It’s impossible to be first at something on the internet. That jumped out at me too, but you outdrew me by a few minutes.

  9. Nice poster Jess!

    @#4: I don’t think the timeline necessarily implies “finality” so much as showing the incredible, generations-long struggle it took to get us where we are today.

    Obviously we still have work to do, but looking back at how far we’ve come is a great way to stay inspired when facing the challenges of the future.

  10. well the US had so little time in which to be racist. It’s only in this century when racism went from being “normal” to “bad”

  11. I want the first edition one, with the typos. It’ll probably become known as “The Youg Edition” to future collectors.

  12. This is a beautiful example of creative typography.

    And yet, despite all the innumerable hours of work that went into this poster, it needs to be proofread once more.

    I would love to buy this, but not before you fix your errors.

    I counted four spelling errors, and someone found a misplaced apostrophe.

    The errors are as follows (in capital letters)

    …has a dream and Klu Klux Klan Members blow up a church killing four **YOUNG** girls.

    …WGPR becomes the first black owned television **STATION**.

    Colin Powell serves as the first Black Chairman of the Joint **CHIEFS** of staff.

    Condoleezza Rice… National **SECURITY** Advisor.

  13. Why is Rodney King in there? He got his ass beaten for violently resisting arrest and not going down after being tasered twice.

    Then again, I’m not exactly sure what purpose this poster is supposed to serve.

  14. @4 I think that given the progression some finality is implied, but I did include some setback in there to counter act that. We may have a black president but only 10 years there were still brutal lynchings.

    Jess (the guy who made the poster)

  15. @18 Rodney King is in there because he (and the verdict) was the catalyst for one of the largest riots in our history. As you can see, his name is not emphasized because he is really just some random guy, the riots however are a signifigant part of history.

    Jess (the guy who made the poster)

  16. @#6, fantastic observation, and a great way of looking at it.

    @#8, From one poster artist to another, nice work, Jess!

  17. TAKUAN:

    yes some1, we all know you have no idea why this poster exists.

    How could you “all” have possibly known that in advance? On scale of 1 to 10, how high are you right now?

    The bit about Rodney King seems to suggest that he was viciously beaten for no reason by white supremacist cops or something like that. At least that’s the only way I can see it fitting into the “narrative” of the poster.

  18. I really dig the poster, I do; but as a veteran of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march I’m disappointed it is not included. It was considered at the time either a seminal or a crowning event, depending on one’s tactical position.

    Its historical importance is widely recognized, whether as symbol or achievement, by all civil rights advocates. Coupled with voting rights legislation enacted a few months later, it marked both the beginning and the ending of two phases of the struggle; racial segregation’s back was broken.

    President Obama paid us the respect of mentioning the march in his victory speech.

  19. Is Obama African American? I think he is a black american, more or less. I think the “African American” description has become almost completely useless descriptor and is heading on its way to being divisive.

  20. well, some1, you see, anyone at all can click on your name and read your entire posting history. All of it. Or did you think no one cared?

  21. Some1, would it surprise you to know a lot of people felt the police action in the Rodney King beating was disproportionate, and indicative of a deeper trend of racial inequality in the responses of the LAPD toward their citizens?

    And 4.5

  22. Update, folks — Jess kindly sent in a revised image, which includes all the typo corrections. I’ve updated the post with it, click reload?

  23. #32 posted by Anonymous , January 23, 2009 11:29 AM

    let me see, racism end with a black president or all those struggle ends on November 4th 2008.

    I must have missed the “The End” printed on the bottom of the poster.

    C’mon, if this had been drawn up 40 years ago it would have concluded with the passage of the civil rights act. Nobody thinks racism is “over,” but that’s no reason to get all downer on a perfectly noteworthy milestone.

  24. Very nice work, Jess! I noticed another error: Edward Brooke’s entry says he was African, not African American.

  25. Could the word “male” in “138 years ago black male Americans are given the right to vote” please be a little more prominent? I had to re-read multiple times before I could find it, and I was looking for it!

  26. I would have said Black President and not “African American.”

    Of course that would fuck up the kerning, but keeping it there conveys how far we haven’t come, to me.

  27. dn’t knw, bm hs lwys smd prtty wht t m. Fw ppl ctlly cr bt th clr f nthr prsns skn, thy cr bt th cltrl vls f tht thr prsn. t s th cltrl dffrncs tht brd htrd nd dstrst mch mr thn clr dffrncs.

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    Whl bm my b mkng hstry by bng th frst mrcn blck sknnd prsdnt, h wll mst lkly nt b rmmbrd s th grt qlzr f “rc”. bggr stp wll b whn w lct prsdnt tht shrs lmst nthng cltrlly wth th mjrty f th ntn.

  28. Just a couple grammatical nit-picks: I think the 2nd sentence on George Washington (“At the time of his death, in 1799,…”) has one and possibly 2 extra commas. Also I think “black-owned” (hyphenated) rather than “black owned” in a couple spots is proper but that might just be a stylistic preference.

  29. “210 years ago all colonies do.”
    “200 years ago the importation of slaves is outlawed”

    Was it 210 years ago or 200? Seems like a duplicate either way. Or am I reading it wrong?

    Also, were thee slaves here before the first slave ship landed 389 years ago? Just wondering, as I hear the number 400 years a lot in reference to the amount of time there was slavery in the US. From the poster though it looks like it was 246 years.

  30. @#40 Thrishmal, whether you think Obama is an Uncle Tom or not, why would it be “a bigger step” to elect a president that shares almost nothing with the nation?

    We’ve had plenty of those.

  31. Thrishmal, why would a nation elect someone that shares nothing with them culturally? And in what way does Obama “seem white?” To me that’s a racist comment. Obama is educated, thoughtful, intelligent, etc. I see nothing in him that’s a black/white thing but a lot that’s a capable/competent thing.

  32. Following Blackhat’s second nit-pick, I would write seventy-eight (hyphenated) rather than seventy eight. (This is about six lines after Slavery Is Abolished, toward the middle.) I also agree with Blackhat’s hyphenation.

  33. Thrishmal @40, and everyone else, can we please not have any comments here implying that black Americans constitute some kind of weird, incomprehensible alien culture, except for a handful of exceptions who “seem white” to you?

  34. “Father from Kenya, mother from Kansas” so yeah… he kind of fits the “African-American” archetype.

  35. Good point Dole. And he was elected simply because he was the best person available for the job. (No disparagement – just a strong belief in the effectiveness of democratic processes).

  36. Some of the entries are missing the trailing period:

    “…Separate but Equal”
    “…protecting the rights of African Americans to vote”
    “…black broadcast network news anchor”
    “…first African American in space”
    “…of a Fortune 500 Company”

    1. Jeez, how can you do a poster about black history in America and spell Ku Klux Klan wrong? Ouch. Proofread that shit next time before you send it in.

  37. This poster is murder on the eyes to read. At least, *my* eyes. But it’s still a nice message.

    Will there be a version printed that will be correct beyond 2009? Next year all the dates will have to change by one.

  38. *tounge in cheek* So…wouldn’t it be nice if this was typeset in Gotham…? 8) H&FJ even released narrow versions to play with a few days ago.

  39. Anyone else find it odd that “354 years ago John Castor becomes first legally recognized slave “property for life””. John Castor filed in court to be released from his indentured servitude and his “master” Anthony Johnson countersued and was awared servitude for life. Both men were black. Funny how everyone these days seems to forget that black people started slavery.

    1. Funny how everyone these days seems to forget that black people started slavery.

      Tell that to the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians………….

  40. Barack Obama is African-American. As in, father African, mother American; as in, familiar with and comfortable in both cultures. He knows who King Leopold was off the top of his head, he knows the rules to American baseball and football.

    Michele Obama is black. As in, descendant of people brought here in chains, who fought their way through historical discrimination and institutionalized disadvantages to reach a modern America where her talent and fierce determination has earned her a high-paying job and acceptance in the highest social circles.

    But the important thing is both these people are American. Like me. They are my people, even though they have kinky hair and I have skin pale as a fish-belly. We have a responsibility to our country to put aside the religious bigotry and moral weakness of the Bush/Reagan axis and become once again a model for the rest of the world to emulate.

  41. Oh, I’m a bit fond of word-art…

    It’s fascinating to read this one thread of history all strung out according to how long ago parts of it happened. (Had to cheer at the bit about Mennonites.) There’s a certain “three steps forward, two steps back” quality about it – but isn’t that true of all history?

    Looks fantastic.

  42. @jess: As a proofreader and copy editor, I can definitively state crowd-sourcing your work is a horrible idea. Find one or two eagle-eyes you know and trust and use them. By not doing that first, your message is lost in the distractions, as you can see by all the comments. Artistically it’s brilliant and beautiful, but in use of the English language, it’s awful. You’re shooting yourself in the foot.

    It looks like some of these were found, but they remain unfixed.

    – seventy-eight should be hyphenated in the 107 stat
    – mutilated is misspelled in the Till stat
    – should be “black-owned and -operated” in WERD stat
    – it’s Ku not Klu under DREAM stat
    – African American, not African in the 42 stat
    – should be D.C. in the 35 stat
    – add hyph to one-billion in Rodney King stat
    – should be “…national security advisor, and four years later, Secretary of State. Robert Johnson becomes…” in the 7 stat
    – should be a comma, not a semicolon, after “2008”
    – should be a comma after “President”
    – should be “Mayors” in 35 stat
    – also, the verb tenses are all over the place, but there are too many for me to list


    Some1, would it surprise you to know a lot of people felt the police action in the Rodney King beating was disproportionate, and indicative of a deeper trend of racial inequality in the responses of the LAPD toward their citizens?

    He led the police on a chase, assaulted officers, resisted arrest and didn’t go down after being tasered twice. The officers suspected he was high on PCP. His injuries, as far as I know, were very minor. What’s really disproportionate are the subsequent riots where 53 people were killed. Black people attacked innocent bystanders at random for no reason, yet I never see anyone express any outrage over that.

  44. Humans started slavery, almost all humans participate in slavery. Slavery is not racial, though the false distinction of race enables the dehumanizing of slaves. This dehumanization makes your crimes easier to stomach. Who is a slave and who is a slave holder, is an economic thing, a power thing. It just so happens that powerful Africans saw a business opportunity in Europeans need for cheap labor. By capturing, or buying, less powerful Africans to trade to more powerful Europeans, these Africans became wealthy. The Europeans then sold or traded them to Europeans living in the Americas. Initially, sugar and molasses were the prime reasons for much of this trade, then tobacco and cotton. This is known as the Atlantic Slave Trade. Upwards of 13 million people were displaced by this trade, resulting in millions of deaths.

    However, this was nothing new. This is not exclusive to Africa. This is not unique. Since the beginning of human civilizations, people have been enslaved by others; every “race” in every land has either been enslaved or held slaves.

    Slavery continues today. In any major city you may pass a slave on the street and never know.

  45. @Xeni, #25:

    No, there is mention of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, which is about as completely opposite from the Tuskegee Airmen as you can get… ;)

    It still seems like a pretty unfortunate omission to me, but I guess you get what you get. Again, nice poster.

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