Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King Jr.

People of colour were conspicuously absent from the mainstream magazines of the 50's.

So much so that this is the only story illustration I've ever come across in any of the several hundred magazines in my collection that shows an African American and a white person associating with each other in a normal, middleclass lifestyle situation. The only one.

In fact, its one of the only appearances of an African American I've ever seen in a 1950's mainstream magazine illustration or cartoon.

So let's pause for a moment and celebrate the great Martin Luther King Jr. and hope that in spite of the continued racial adversity we face even today, 50 years after this illustration appeared, that we are somehow heading in the right direction - that Dr. King's dream will one day become our reality.

Tomorrow: Our regularly scheduled topic begins.


  1. Norman Rockwell made a scene of children playing in a typical American suburb -- one of whom was black -- but I don't remember its date -- oops -- just found it online,
    "New Kids in the Neighborhood" from 1967.

    Well... it felt like it was from the 50's anyway.

  2. Thanks for your comment, chris! I'm sure there are a few pieces here and there - I just haven't seen them. Over all though, a trip through the magazines of the 50's suggests it was a white, white world! ;-)

  3. The unfortunate flip side of the period of time that we all share a love for -- the years when illustration played such a dominant role in our popular culture -- is the unavoidable taint of racism. It really was a white, white world; illustrators were simply reflecting what society told itself was acceptable. Which makes this image all the more interesting.

  4. Thanks for that, neil - I think you definitely get what I was saying... and as an illustrator working today, I'm sure you have had instruction, as I have so many times, to make sure to represent a diverse racial mix in your assignments - something I doubt was a typical art direction in the 50's.