"PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol"
February 21, 2008
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The peace symbol. It is recognized
around the globe and has become an enduring cultural icon. For five
decades, millions of people worldwide, regardless of race or
religious beliefs, have looked to the peace sign to unite them. And
the symbol's appeal continues with each succeeding generation.
The story of the peace sign began in the spring of 1958 when peace
activists, clergy and Quakers in Great Britain organized a rally to
draw attention to the testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons by
some of the world's most powerful countries. Gerald Holtom, a textile
designer and commercial artist from Twickenham, suggested the
demonstrators carry posters and banners with a simple visual symbol
he had designed. He created the symbol by combining the semaphore
letters N and D, for nuclear disarmament, and on Feb. 21, 1958, the
symbol was accepted by the District Action Committee.
On April 4, 1958, 5,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square to show
support for the Ban the Bomb movement, then walked to the town of
Aldermaston, site of an atomic weapons research plant. The first
peace signs appeared during that march and a second Aldermaston march
the following year. From there it took flight, appearing on flags,
clothes, even scratched on walls and signposts, all over Europe.
To commemorate this anniversary, National Geographic Books is
publishing in April a tribute tracing the world-famous pictogram as
it evolved from a 1950s anti-nuke emblem to a defining icon still
widely seen and used today. PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol ($25),
by Ken Kolsbun, with Michael Sweeney, is a one-of-a-kind story about
the origin of the peace sign, the man who created it and its enduring
relevance through the past 50 years.
Easy to remember and reproduce, the symbol soon crossed borders and
cultures in a phenomenal way. It became a classic symbol, an icon of
peace for the people. Like a chameleon, the symbol took on additional
meanings during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the
environmental movement, women's and gay rights movements and the two
Kolsbun is a photographer, writer, historian, peace activist, game
inventor, landscape architect, husband and father who continues to be
active in the peace movement.
National Geographic Society
Alison Reeves, 202-857-7793