The Samuel Gray Society

dedicated to preserving the history of colonial America and its people


The popularity of the raised fist is typically associated with various leftist groups and workers movements of the 20th century, although a document in the Samuel Gray collection points to a precedent in ancient Assyria.  In a stele depicting the goddess of love and war, Ishtar, one can imagine two raised fists among her multiple appendages.

This interpretation, while challenged by some Mesopotamian scholars, would seem

consistent with many Near Eastern images that express resistance in the face of violence.

The lion, another reference to Ishtar, is also a symbol of strength and ferocity.

A similar example can be found in this earthenware figure from Colima,

which depicts a shaman or warrior with fist raised in active gesture,

presumably in assistance of his community.

The first fist pump in North America?  We think so!

In the modern era,  fist became of fundamental symbol of the struggle for workers rights in both Russia and in the United States.  However, in the U.S.  it was appropriated successfully for equality movements, where it is identified with the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement.

Chairman Omali Yeshitela leading a demonstration for

                                                         black equality in the 1968

  photo courtesy of The African People’s Socialist Party

A newsletter for the American Indian Movement

photo courtesy of Mike Wicks and Michigan State University

Two iconic photographs associated with the raised fist date are depicted below.  In the 1968 Olympic games, track and field medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists for black power and solidarity.  In the seventies, noted feminist Gloria Steinem and activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes posed for this Dan Wynn photo to advertise their national speaking tour raising awareness for women’s rights.

Women demonstrators rallying for social justice.

Nelson Mandela in 1994

David Felton/Getty Images

Photo: Don McPhee

It is difficult to know what inspired Jonathan Doury’s design for the Samuel Gray emblem.  What is clear however, is our shared history in the universal struggle for independence, liberty and equality.  The SGS stands in solidarity with those groups for whom justice is a fundamental human necessity.


Logos incorporating the raised fist.

The Jewish Defense League. 

IBEW, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

VFA-25 U.S. Naval Strike Fighter  Squadron.

Earth First!  environmental organization.

We raise our fist with you.

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