They Are Coming —Josephine D. Heard
First published in 1890, this poem deals with black liberation from slavery and oppression in late-19th century USA. Here, I have interpreted the text by designing a book consisting only of empty, white pages, with the poem printed on ten black bookmarks. By placing the written content on the physically separated bookmarks, these are given a new value and function, and represent black resistance and liberation from the white context. As a metaphor for human history, this illustrates how resistance always takes place within a dominant structure, here represented by the book and its white pages. The weight and width of the 800-page book increases the oppressive force of the white pages onto the content.
The poem has a distinctive build-up, as the words »They are coming« are followed first by »Slowly«, then by »Proudly«, and lastly by »Boldly«. This intensification is reflected by the progression of the embossed front and back cover, as the third and final line is printed with such a pressure that the paper cracks around the letters, mediating a sense of frustration and struggle. Heard’s name is printed in black on the book spine, both in order to link her to the bookmarks, and to offer her the space and recognition she deserves.