The raised fist (also known as the clenched fist) is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance. The salute dates back to ancient Assyria as a symbol of resistance in the face of violence.
Assyrian depictions of the goddess Ishtar show her raising a clenched fist. A raised fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1917. The graphic symbol was popularized in 1948 by Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico that used art to advance revolutionary social causes. The symbol has been picked up and incorporated around the world by various groups fighting oppression.
The image gallery shows how a raised fist is used in visual communication. Combined with another graphic element, a raised fist is used to convey polysemous gestures and opposing forces. Depending on the elements combined, the meaning of the gesture changes in tone and intention. For example, a hammer and sickle combined with a raised fist is part of communist symbolism, while the same fist combined with a Venus symbol represents Feminism, and combined with a book, it represents librarians.
The raised fist logo may represent unity or solidarity, generally with oppressed peoples. The black fist, also known as the Black Power fist is a logo generally associated with black nationalism and sometimes socialism. Its most widely known usage is by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. A black fist logo was also adopted by the northern soul music subculture. The white fist, also known as the Aryan fist or the White Power fist is a logo generally associated with white nationalism.
A white fist holding a red rose is used by the Socialist International and some socialist or social democratic parties. Loyalists in Northern Ireland occasionally use a clenched fist on murals depicting the Red Hand of Ulster. However, this is considered rare; the red hand is usually depicted with a flat palm.
The raised fist salute consists of raising one arm in the air with a clenched fist. The meaning can vary based on context.
Different movements sometimes use different terms to describe the raised fist salute: amongst communists and socialists, it is sometimes called the red salute, whereas amongst black rights activists, especially in the United States of America it has been called the Black Power salute. During the Spanish Civil War, it was sometimes known as the anti-fascist salute. The traditional version of the salute, originally a symbol of the broader workers' movement, became associated with the parties of the Comintern during the 1920s and 1930s. Since the Trotskyists were forced out of the Comintern, some Trotskyists have made a point of strictly raising the left fist in the tradition of the Left Opposition. Some anarchists also prefer the left fist to denote their libertarian socialist opposition to Marxism.
The clenched fist gesture is sometimes mistakenly thought to have originated in the Spanish Civil War, where the Popular Front salute was at one time the standard salute of Republican forces. A letter from the Spanish Civil War stated: "...the raised fist which greets you in Salud is not just a gesture—it means life and liberty being fought for and a greeting of solidarity with the democratic peoples of the world."
At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave the raised fist salute during the American national anthem as a sign of black power, and as a protest on behalf of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. For this, they were banned from further Olympic activities. The event was one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. Tommie Smith stated in his autobiography, "Silent Gesture", that the salute was not a Black Power salute, but in fact a human rights salute.
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