Celebrate People's History: The Diggers

Erik Ruin
GVSU Collection
2 Color Offset Printed Poster
December 2010
Artworks - Height: 17" Width: 11"
This is a green and blue poster with white text and prints of people. They are all standing in wavy fields of grass that have text flowing along insides of them. The title at the top is "The Diggers" with the Celebrate People's History logo beside it. Text reads: "An homage to the 17th century British revolutionaries who created small agrarian communities in hopes of actualizing their beliefs that all are equal and that all property should be held in common. The words on the poster are taken from the lyrics to “The World Turned Upside Down” by Leon Rosselson: “In 1649, to St. George’s Hill, a ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people’s will. They defied the landlords, they defied the laws, they were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs. We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow, we come to work the land in common, and to make the wasteland grow. This earth divided, we will make whole, so it can be a common treasury for all. The sin of property we do disdain, no one has the right to buy and sell the earth for private gain. We work, we eat together, we need no swords. We will not bow to masters, or pay rent to lords. We are free men, though we are poor. You diggers all stand up for glory, stand up now. From men of property, the orders came. They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers’ claim. Tear down their cottages—destroy their corn. They are dispersed—only the vision lingers on. You poor take courage. You rich take care. The earth is a common treasury for everyone to share.”
Historical Context:
The Celebrate People’s History posters are rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced political propaganda. These posters embody democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of the past. Unlike most political posters, the posters part of the Celebrate People’s History series tell the stories of the underdogs, those individuals and groups helping to move forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more just world. For 20 years, over 130 different posters have been displayed on the streets of over a dozen cities representing over 150 artists and writers. The Celebrate People’s History Poster Series has been organized and curated by Josh MacPhee since 1998.