Coded Resistance, the Comic!

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Coded Resistance, the Comic!

Illustrations by Chelsea Saunders, produced in collaboration with the Nib.

From the days of chattel slavery until the modern Black Lives Matter movement, Black communities have developed innovative ways to communicate to fight back against oppression.

EFF's Director of Engineering, Alexis Hancock, documented this important history of codes, ciphers, underground telecommunications and even dance in a blog post that became one of our favorite articles of 2021. In collaboration with The Nib and illustrator Chelsea Saunders, we now have adapted "Coded Resistance" into comic form to further explore the stories of slave revolts, the coded songs of Harriet Tubman, civil rights era strategies for circumventing "Ma Bell," and the use of modern day technology to document police abuse. The comic is available below, as well as on the EFF Instagram feed, and also via The Nib.

Our hope is that by combining images and text, we can help bring the history of resistance to surveillance to life. And like all EFF content, it's shareable and remixable under a Creative Commons - Attribution license. If you enjoy the comic and would like to see more illustrated takes on our blog posts, let us know!

 How Black Communities Fought Against Surveillance. Written by Alexis Hancock, Illustrated by Chelsea Saunders. The light from a surveillance camera shines on three Black faces, which look directly at the camera.

 A montage of scenes from the civil rights movement, including Rosa Parks with a plate labeled 7053, the Black Panthers, Malcolm X looking out a window with a rifle, and a Black protester being attacked by a police dog. Protesters of different races hold signs, including Black Lives Matter, No Justice No Peace, #BLM, Say Their Names, and a peace sign. An allusion to the famous British abolitionist infographic depicting a cutaway chart of the 18th-century Brooks slave ship. The infographic is an aerial view of 400 slaves. A spotlight shines on a group of Black people in chains, surrounded by towering figures of White slaveholders. People sit in a campfire under the stars. "Anglican clergy were still reporting that Africans spoke little or no English but stood around in groups talking among themselves in “strange languages". A woman ties a long white ribbon on a pole on a country road. A man holding a candle peeps through the crack of his cabin, where a woman with a candle waits on the other side. A man attacks a slaveholder.  A close-up of two people chatting, emphasizing a man talking into another’s ear. A crowd of faces look above the reader, some have x’s over their mouths. John Adams makes a speech among a group of four seated white men in colonial garb in an American classroom. An illustration of the circle of communications between people traveling by horse, walking, and by boat. A White man in a top hat looks at a poster of a 50 reward for the capture of a slave. A profile portrait of Harriet Tubman, surrounded by laurels.Harriet Tubman stoically holds a rifle, alongside three Black men in Union soldier clothes standing in the same position. “Follow the drinking gourd to the tracks. There you will find a station manned by three station masters. From there you will go North aided by an agent and stock holder.” Here, Tubman's words are codes. Enslaved people work in a field, while music flows above them. A map, highlighting places in Jamaica (Tacky’s War, 1760s), Mexico (1609 Revolution), and Haiti (Haitian Revolution 1791) where slave rebellions occurred. Iconography from the Akan people, such as a longsword, tall African mask, and statuette of a person with a large circular head. kicking, headstands, swinging arms and legs. “Chapter XVIII, An Act to Punish Vagrants, Vagabonds and Dangerous and Suspicious Persons.” A woman and two men lean in to listen to the radio. A radio DJ speaks into his microphone while holding a record. An illustration showing the separation between White switchboard operators and Black women talking to each other on the telephone. A man speaks powerfully using the code words (e.g. Caddo, Webster). “Chairman Fred”, Angela Yvonne Davis’s FBI Wanted picture, and so on. one from the 60s with a baton and cap, the other from today, wearing a helmet and shield, carrying a machine gun, and wearing heavy armor. Two people sit at their computers, typing messages to each other. A magnifying glass is held up against the binary of their messages and is unable to reveal the communications. A portrait of Darnella Frazier, holding her Pulitzer Prize. AI highlighting his facial dimensions with nodes, a closeup of his eye, and a fingerprint. On the left, Harriet Tubman and the Black Union soldiers resisting slavery; On the right, Black Lives Matter activists rallying others.

* This article was originally published here


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