Black History Playing Cards created by a local artist striving for education through illustration

Black History Month

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – For Octavian Johnson, he created this deck of cards as a passion project, but now, demand is increasing. Taking a few months to initially complete, Johnson said this is the collection he is most proud of.

Whether they were to be used as flashcards to teach kids or to play a game, the overall hope was to educate. Every detail added into each card, even down to the colors used, has a deeper meaning. 

Johnson said red represents the struggle that the figures went through to get to where they were in their lives. But even further, it represents the blood, sweat, tears, and all that they sacrificed to get to where they deserved to initially be. The purple represents royalty when they actually got up to the highest point. Johnson said, “that’s you’ve made it yah know like you’re a king—queen.” 

Similar to a regular deck, Johnson’s cards are divided into 4 suits. But, of course, Johnson’s design comes with a twist. The four suits separated those highlighted into the categories of Athletes, Musicians, Scientists, and Activists. 

Johnson went onto explain that even today, the four categories continue to have barriers. He noted those are “the main ones where they kind of have to work to get to the top to get recognized.” To showcase that impact, Johnson said it’s not just his playing cards that showcase black excellence and perseverance, it’s in all of his work.

You know even if my art doesn’t get worldwide or anything like that—just to touch people and let them know that there are black artists out there and black people in art. 

Octavian Johnson, Creator & Illustrator 

While Johnson does not favor one card over another or show a preference for one black pivotal figure over another, he explained that each card and person has a story to tell about pushing limits and boundaries set by another before them.

To view Octavian Johnson’s work, click here.
For his Black History Playing Cards Volume I, click here.

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