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Create a Propaganda Poster Activity

Posters are an eye-catching way to convey important information quickly and easily
and can help remind people to be part of the solution in dangerous and trying times.

Visual Arts, Research, Current Events, Writing

Elementary, Middle and High School

30-60 minutes

Paper, pencil, crayons, colored pencils, computer

To learn how simple images, colors and words
can evoke powerful emotions, transmit complex
information and inspire action, or inaction.

Post a picture of your work to social media with the hashtag #fdractivities

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Historic Context:

America entered World War II as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Millions of young men and women rallied to their nation’s defense by joining the armed forces, or taking to the machines of production back on the homefront. Some fought the war with machine guns, others with machine presses, but still others fought with pens, palettes and paint brushes as a great need arose to rally and inform every citizen that their help and cooperation was necessary to win the war.

The word was spread by powerful propaganda and information posters that appeared almost everywhere overnight. With eye catching colors and images, emotions like fear, patriotism and a call to duty were awakened in ordinary citizens. Other posters served as reminders to do everything from conserve gas, purchase war bonds to help finance the war, and to keep information secret. These posters made every person in the country an active part of fighting, and winning, the war.

To see examples of WWII posters, explore our digital artifact collection of posters from our 2018 special exhibition “THE ART OF WAR: American Poster Art 1941-1945."

Activity Steps/Procedures:

  1. Create your own propaganda/information posters to remind your family to:
    • Wash their hands often
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with their elbows
    • Keep six feet of distance from others
    1. What colors would you use? 
    2. What images would you draw?
    3. What words would you use?
    4. What emotions would your posters evoke?
  2. One of the most famous posters of World War II was the one shown below.
    1. What makes this such a powerful and inspiring poster?
    2. Why do you suppose the image of a woman is used and not a man?
    3. What feelings and emotions does the poster make you feel?

 Questions to Consider:

  1. How do the propaganda/information posters we see around us today differ from those used during World War II?
  2. Why is it important for the government to share information and keep people informed?
  3. Why is it important for everyone to do their part in a national crisis?

A Step Beyond:

  1. Explore some of the posters from World War II and use your imagination to write a few sentences about:
    1. What action is the poster designed to get people to do, or not do?
    2. Why would doing, or not doing, that action be important?
    3. What emotions does the poster stir up? 
    4. What images, colors or words does it use to do so?