Tropes in Media: Black Pride Fists

The raised fist trope can be identified within many political movements, however, the fist has adapted to become a notable Black trope. Within the media it has become a symbol of resilience and power within the black community. Its origins for black people began during the civil rights movement. The fist was adopted as a symbol of anti-racism by the Black Panther Party. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale raised their fists to exhort members of the Party, and this gesture soon spread throughout all African American communities. The fist has not only become a representation for anti-racism but also movements such as black lives matter and natural hair. This trope is continuously used in the media to represent black people, their struggles, and culture.


Pictured above (on the top) is a notorious image involving women members of the Black Panther Party (Delores Henderson, Joyce Lee, Mary Ann Carlton, Joyce Means and Paula Hill) at a Free Huey Newton Rally in 1968. In this era, the fist was raised in solidarity with the Black Panther Party. It adopted a political representation and overall symbolized the party’s values. If you raised the fist, you were in solidarity with the party. Pictured below the photo of the women is the “The Black Panther” newspaper in which incarcerated members were featured on the cover. Their fists are held up as a display of resistance alongside their support for the party. The infamous fist eventually became known as the black power fist and represented the liberation of black people from a racist and discriminatory society. 


Pictured above is a “fist comb.” It is essentially an afro pick that became a political statement during the civil rights movements and still remains one today. The black power fist lies at the top of the comb, meant to stick out of an afro when placed. While the black power fist utilized by the Black Panthers represents solidarity and liberation, the fist comb represents the natural hair movement and black culture. During the civil rights movement and era, many African Americans sought to reaffirm their cultural identity by not straightening their hair to follow mainstream European fashions, resulting in a movement to embrace natural hairstyles. The pride fist on this comb represents the appreciation of natural hair. It showcases a black person’s pride for their hair and culture. 


While the previous black pride/power fists are utilized solely within the black community, the Black Lives Matter fist has become the face of a movement for anyone willing to support. Pictured above is a protester holding up a large black pride/power raised fist in the middle of the crowd that gathered at Columbus Circle in New York City for a Black Lives Matter Protest spurred by the death of George Floyd. This fist specifically represents a movement that aims to combat police brutality and injustices against black individuals. Those who raise this fist or have memorabilia or objects with the symbol can be assumed to be in support of the movement. 

In each example the fist has represented anti-racism in some shape or form. However, throughout each example it can be seen that the meaning and purpose of the trope has shifted. The black power/pride fist can be utilized in many ways, ultimately conveying various messages about anti-discrimination and movements.



Dixon, Janelle. Magazine, Smithsonian. “The Rank and File Women of the Black Panther Party and Their Powerful Influence.”, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Mar. 2019, 

Helligar, Jeremy. “How the Clenched Fist Became a Black Power Symbol.” Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest, 21 July 2021, 

“National Museum of African American History & Culture.” National Museum of African American History and Culture, 

“Radical Objects: The Black Fist Afro Comb.” History Workshop, 10 Feb. 2014, 

“This Just in: Emory Douglas & the Black Panther.” This Just In: Emory Douglas & The Black Panther – Letterform Archive,