Black Lives Matter:
Biographies as Trading Cards

An ongoing illustrative history study
by Peter Vinton, Jr. - Beginning June 2020

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Collect 'em ...all?

On June 1, 2020, in the immediate aftermath of the nationwide protests surrounding George Floyd's murder at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement, Washington, D.C. naturally became one of the flashpoints. On that day, police and National Guard units deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades to clear away protestors from the vicinity of nearby St. John's church so that then-president Trump could brandish a Bible and pose in front of the building for a photo-op.

Prophetic warning.As I watched this carefully-staged scene I, like so many Americans, felt a deep sense of outrage. I was vividly reminded of a particular passage from Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum Address of January 27, 1838, in which he warned:

"If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher."

As a longtime science-fiction fan and something of a student of fictional dystopias (and in fact actively writing one of my own), I don't mind confessing that, in those hours, I honestly believed my nation to at last be at its irrevocable, final end. Anything resembling the United States of America beyond June 1, 2020 was merely involuntary motor functions; zombielike staggering. We'd gotten in a reasonably good run by any measure --231 years, or if you're a romantic, 244 years.

Fortunately this trough of gloominess subsided, but that sense of helpless passivity never left me --I knew I had to do something to push back against fascism's apparent arrival. By the end of that day a hastily-drawn "sketchcard" of Lincoln appeared on my Tumblr and Facebook pages. Not much, to be sure, but if nothing else it reinforced the warning. We comic artists often resort to sketchcards as low-dollar (or even free) product --literally an illustration on a baseball-card sized piece of cardstock. I had recently completed a run of such illustrations the previous autumn, up to and including a memorial/tribute piece of the late Congressman Elijah Eugene Cummings:

"When we re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?"

A few days later, after having listened to an interview with brilliant author Clint Smith, III, I concluded that a brush-up on American history was in order, particularly in response to the hysterics who were just beginning to argue against the so-called "encroachment" of Critical Race Theory into state curricula.

The next thing I know, I'm researching into some truly amazing and heroic lives, uncovering all manner of facts about people whose names were almost never touched upon in my entire elementary, high school, or college education. It was powerful. And enraging. The next several years led to the growing collection of biographies and accompanying art that I now lay before you. Of course I've yet to figure exactly what needs to be become of this still-growing study, but at the very least I can share with you the results of this humbling journey to date.

Next page - Lesson 1: W. E. B. DuBois

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