Ben Shahn was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1898. His family emigrated to America in 1904 and after he completed his schooling, Shahn became a lithographer's apprentice. Shahn continued his studies at night school and eventually attended New York University and the National Academy of Design (1917-21).
In the 1920s Shahn became a Social Realist and his work was often inspired by news reports. Text and lettering formed an integral part of his designs. Shahn held strong socialist views and his art often referred to cases of social injustice. A good example of this concerns the drawings about the proposed execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. He also played an important role in the campaign against the imprisonment of the trade union leader, Tom Mooney.