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African American Portrayal In Life Magazine !937

1328 words - 6 pages

Today we live in a world where the idea of being “politically correct” is shoved down society’s throat. Today we must carefully plan out how we speak as so we do not offend one type of minority or another. Today we must be carful with what we say because our words can be twisted into racist statements without us realizing it. For my essay assignment I decided to see how the early publications of Life dealt with the challenges presented to journalism today. To see Life at the earliest stages of publishing could present to me an idea of how minorities, specifically African Americans in my research, were portrayed by the media. The year 1937 had many different portrayals of African Americans, ...view middle of the document...

Not much detail was given about his crime, however the caption made a point to mention that Green was a Negro. This made a point that the color Green’s skin was an important factor in his crime. The color of someone’s skin could even affect important African American’s in 1937’s society. The last example is when Paul Robeson, described as an “American Negro” singer, visited Russia and sang in the Moscow Conservatory. See the attached Figure One for this article. The article elaborates how Robeson was searching for diversity for his son and felt that Russia was a perfect fit because being a Negro was a novelty. The way the article was written could convince a reader that Robeson was potentially a communist, which was becoming a rising worry in 1937. Although Robeson was a possible communist, he was also a prominent member or the African American society, and possibly society as a whole.
Paul Robeson was not the only prominent African American member of society, and Life was sure to mention the others. Another “great Negro singer” was named Marian Anderson. Anderson had an entire article dedicated to her and her accomplishments. Besides being a wonderful singer Anderson was described as an intelligent and modest girl. Naturally she was someone who the magazine admired and promoted in her success. The magazine also promoted the success of William Edmondson, a sculptor with no training but a command from God. Edmondson answered a call from God to cut tombstones and sculpt and luckily for him a photographer found his sculptures and purchased several of them. The same photographer also convinced the Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art to give Edmondson his own exhibit. This article really promotes the idea that African Americans could have success with a little hard work, determination, and in Huddie Ledbetter’s case a little salvation. Huddie Ledbetter was twice imprisoned for murder, however he was able to pardon himself by singing his soulful songs about his savior. After he was pardoned, Ledbetter became the number one African American minstrel. These show readers that even the lowest African American could be saved and earn their prominent place in society.
Unfortunately, many portrayals did not show progress for the African American society but instead regression. These portrayals often conveyed the idea that African Americans should still be treated as servants. The Flood of 1937 was the perfect example of how African Americans were used as servants. There were multiple pictures of African American’s trying to protect towns from the flood by raising levees, boarding up buildings, and even moving cotton to higher grounds. The last example of moving cotton is legitimately a flashback to slavery in the south. Chain gangs also helped prevent damage for the flood and were also mentioned many other times throughout the year’s publication. The images of chain gangs were usually of predominately or all African American chain gangs, which reinforces...

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