Petitioning with Your Feet

From local protests to massive marches in Washington, demonstrators have forced officials to confront issues that they have often wished to avoid. By any imaginable means, people have come before the government and demanded to be heard. Carrying signs, singing songs, and shouting from a podium, whether beautiful and moving or disrespectful and offensive, these demonstrations are an exercise in the American democratic process.

The National Stage

The National Stage

Pro-immigration rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., April 2006

Courtesy of Stephen Crowley/The New York Times/Redux

Student protest T-shirt

Made during the Harvard University student anti-war protest and sit-in of the administration building, 1968–1969

Gift of William Rutledge

View object record

T-shirt, "Feminist and Proud"

Obtained at the National Organization for Women (NOW) national convention, Detroit, Michigan, April 1977

Gift of Linda New(wo)man

View object record

T-shirt, "Justice for Janitors"

Produced for Service Employees International Union organizing campaign, and collected at the Democratic National Convention, Atlanta, 1988

View object record

T-shirt, "Todos Somos Imigrantes"

Worn during immigrants’ rights demonstration, Chicago, May 1, 2006

Gift of Mireya Loza

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Protest Signs

Piles of signs ready to be picked up by marchers for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Piles of signs ready to be picked up by marchers for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Courtesy of Library of Congress



This short video shows scenes from more than a century of political protests and demonstrations in the United States.

Poster, "We Want Work Not Welfare"

Poster, "Justice & Dignity For All US Immigrants"

Poster, "Jobs For the 99% Tax For the Rich"

Poster, "Cure Hate. Stop Aids."

Poster, "D.C. Statehood Now!"


Poster, "UAW Supports Freedom March"

Poster, "Promotions not Proposals"

Poster, "[UP] Yours, No Surge!"

Poster, "Save Brown vs. Board of Education"

Poster, "Immigrants Built This Country"

Poster, "Smash Imperialism"

Poster, "Freedom YES Apartheid NO!"

Poster, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt!"

Poster, "Buffalo New York Forced Busing is a No! No!"


Poster, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!"

Poster, "Hey Congress Listen to US"

Poster, "Discrimination Against Homosexuals Is As Immoral As Discrimination Against Negroes & Jews"

Poster, "Jobs and Justice"


Poster, "Not Four More Years..."

Poster, "If the Farmer Can't Survive..."

Poster, "Secure Our Borders Now!"

Poster, "Equality is Not a Special Right"

Poster, "It's a Democracy Not an Auction"

Poster, "Stop Abortion Now"

Poster, "Don't Trade Away Our Social Security"


Poster, "Black Lives Matter"