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What we now call the Peace Symbol was originally designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for its first major anti-nuclear march from London to Aldermaston. The frequently-repeated but mistaken belief that it was designed by Bertrand Russell probably stems from the fact that Russell was the president of the CND at the time. It was on that march, over the 1958 Easter weekend that the symbol first appeared in public. Five hundred lollipops on sticks, half black on white, half white on green, were produced. The first badges were produced by Eric Austin of Kensington CND using white clay with the symbol painted black. They were distributed with a note explaining that in the event of a nuclear war, these fired pottery badges would be among the few human artifacts to survive. The peace symbol crossed the Atlantic almost at once. Bayard Rustin, a close associate of Martin Luther King, had come over for the Aldermaston march and took the symbol back to the U.S. for the Civil Rights marches and later it appeared at anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. The symbol is now recognized around the world as a sign of peace. There have been claims that the symbol has older, occult associations. Also, that it was originally a rune. However, Gerald Holtom has clearly described his ideas behind the symbol in interviews and letters. He explained that the symbol incorporates the semaphore letters "N"(uclear) and "D"(isarmament). He explained in greater, more personal depth,"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 formalized the drawing into a line and put a circle around it." Eric Austin added his own interpretation of the design,"the gesture of despair had long been associated with the death of Man, and the circle with the unborn child." The Peace Symbol has deliberately never been copyrighted. No one has to pay or seek permission before they use it. A symbol of freedom, it is free for all.
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The dove has been a symbol of peace and innocence for thousands of years in many different cultures. In ancient Greek mythology it was a symbol of love and the renewal of life. In ancient Japan a dove carrying a sword symbolized the end of war. In the story of Noah and the Ark, when the rains that flooded the earth stopped, Noah sent out various birds to see if they would bring back any sign of land to his boat. One dove eventually returned carrying an olive branch. There was a tradition in Europe that if a dove flew around a house where someone was dying then their soul would be at peace. And there are legends which say that the devil can turn himself into any bird except for a dove. In Christian art, the dove was used to symbolize the Holy Ghost and was often painted above Christ's head. But it was Pablo Picasso who made the dove a modern symbol of peace when he used it on a poster for the World Peace Congress in 1949. The poster inspired a new family of varied peace doves created by artists around the world.