folding chair with fist silhouette on seat to illustrate folding chair meme story

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The folding chair meme: A symbol of Black resistance

Following its origins in a brawl in Montgomery, Ala., the folding chair meme developed unexpected resonance.

 

Natasha Dubash

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Memes often come about when the internet offers a fresh perspective on existing online content. But every so often, a real-life event captures the imagination of netizens, prompting them to immortalize the happening via humorous memes. The folding chair meme is one such example.

What’s the story behind the folding chair meme?

In August 2023, a Black dockworker in Montgomery, Ala., requested a white family move their pontoon boat, which had been illegally docked at the same spot designated for the popular river boat Harriet II. Instead of complying with his request, the family refused and three members of the group began to assault the worker. 

The fight escalated as other dockworkers and crew members of the riverboat joined in to help the worker, and an all-out fight broke down along racial lines. One crew member even went so far as to jump off the boat and swim to the dock to offer aid. 

Online users pointed out many details in the videos of the brawl that traversed the internet, but the one that stood out the most was that of one of the black men using a folding chair to beat down his white opponents before the police stepped in and stopped the fight. Many applauded the man and his chair, and almost instantaneously, memes about this new icon of Black resistance began to circulate the internet.

Origins of the folding chair meme

The fact that the fight took place at a Montgomery dock, where slaves were historically unloaded and sold, made the incident even more significant. It soon became known in memes as the Battle of Montgomery. Images of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman holding folding chairs began to spring up online. 

While some users condemned the use of the chair as a weapon, many took to memes to provide a more lighthearted outlook on the situation. Creator @SoulKingLives posted a video of the brawl on X (formerly known as Twitter) with the caption, “Nathaniel Alexander designed the folding chair for his descendants to be used for times like this!” The user is referring to the inventor of the folding chair, Nathaniel Alexander, who brought the innovation to the world in 1911.

The racial connotation of the brawl transformed the folding chair into a symbol of Black resistance, with people online calling it the “star” of the Montgomery fight. Another Twitter user, @TheSGTJoker, posted a picture of a chair with the caption, “White Folding Chair has announced that she’s forming an exploratory committee for a potential Senate run…”

The meme also made the rounds on TikTok. User @TTEcclesBrown posted a video captioned “Training for the next battle,” in which she showed her kids wielding folding chairs outside as she watched over their “training.” The video garnered 1.2 million views in a day.

@evadaniel12 Got to teach the young. Preparing them for the next battle of Montgomery. If your seeing this then your kids are late training started at 9am #montgomery #brawl #training #montgomeryalabama #forthepeople #fypシ #blackpanther ♬ original sound – Kwani

The folding chair’s entry into meme culture unexpectedly but decidedly solidified it as a sign of the spirit of resistance. 

 
The Daily Dot