Library & Knowledge Services, working with the Dean's Office, the Academic Deans' Office, and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, have launched two interactive digital exhibits featuring selections from the Political Buttons at HKS Collection. These exhibits illuminate the historical legacy and contemporary examples of progress toward a more equitable and just society in the United States. The buttons featured are among over 1,500 others housed at HKS, representing political campaigns and social movements from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Over the past decade, a record number of individuals from underrepresented groups have launched political campaigns in the United States. This exhibit highlights a selection of political buttons from 32 of these candidates—women, people of color, Native people, and members of the LGBTQ community—who have sought political office since 2012. These candidates threw their hats in the ring for governorships, Congressional seats, and U.S. president. The majority of the buttons in this exhibit represent campaigns run in 2018, when HKS Library and Knowledge Services began seeking button donations from political campaigns across the country.
The United States has a long and rich history of political activism, expressed through protest, speech, and direct action. Since the mid-20th century, political buttons have been a popular medium to display support for social movements or participation in marches or demonstrations. From the Vietnam War to nuclear power, South African apartheid to LGBTQ rights, and the Iraq War to the #MeToo movement, the buttons in this exhibit highlight a selection of issues and protests from the 1960s to today. The majority of the buttons are from the 1970s and 1980s, reflecting both our collection’s strengths and the declining popularity of buttons as objects of political speech.