Thursday, June 30, 2011

Did the Iconic Civil Rights Era Photographs Do More Harm than Good?

Now the stuff of history books, the iconic photographs of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States were once front-page news: snarling dogs, baton-wielding police, high-pressure fire hoses, and more used to keep African-American men, women, and children from realizing the promise of the American dream. White Northerners saw such images and pushed for legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to aid African Americans, bringing to an end that sad chapter of American history. Or so the story goes. In Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography, Martin A. Berger argues that the story in the history books isn’t true. Instead, Berger believes, those images portrayed African-Americans as weak and incapable of saving themselves—a portrayal that continues to prevent true equality and plagues race relations to this day. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Did the Iconic Civil Rights Era Photographs Do More Harm than Good?"

[Image: Jack Thornell. James Meredith, wounded by a shotgun blast, sprawled on a highway near Hernando, Mississippi, June 6, 1966.]

[Many thanks to the University of California Press for providing me with a review copy of Martin A. Berger’s Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography.]

1 comment:

Samantha said...

Interesting, I'll have to check it out. Have you been to the Newseum?

The Katrina exhibit features two photographs--one appears to be of a Caucasian couple, the other of an African American--of people going through the water with supplies. The Caucasian couple is featured with a photo caption that notes they found the supplies, while the photo caption for the African American states he looted the items.

It was interesting to see that this museum didn't simply celebrate news or the history of newspapers, instead they also discuss and when needed criticize how various forms of media portray events and people, whether that's in a positive and negative light.

Mus(eum)ings: Musings from a Museum Intern