I’ve always attributed the peace symbol’s origins to tie-dyed, war-protesting hippies at Woodstock, so I was surprised to learn that it made its world debut across the Pond, 50 years ago this spring.
British artist Gerald Holtom, a conscientious objector during the Second World War, created the peace symbol in 1958 to represent his views on nuclear disarmament. There are several potential explanations for each of the design elements, but Horton made clear his inspiration:
I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.
The peace symbol was imported to the United States in the late 1960s, where it was first used in civil rights marches and then became the rallying symbol of anti-Vietnam War sentiments. Since that tumultuous time in our own country’s history, the logo has achieved recognition as the international hallmark of peace.
Instead of singing Happy Birthday, perhaps it’s more fitting to sing war protests and peace anthems. Let There Be Peace on Earth is my personal favorite. What song (or poem) would you choose?