History 17B Lecture 2 Race and Segregation Page 6


B.  Conservative Racism

In contrast to this image of the African American as "brute," we can find images of the "child" or "buffoon" that are more paternalistic but no less racist.  The force in spreading this Conservative imagery was through a body of popular literature (novels, poetry, and short stories) known as the "plantation tradition."  The plantation tradition emphasized the peaceful and ideal quality of what life was like in the South under slavery.  Blacks really appreciated slavery and were nostalgic for the guidance and care that their owners provided prior to the Civil War.
songofthesouth.jpg (26994 bytes) Popular stories such as Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories - which were later made into a Disney movie called Song of the South that has practically been banned by the company - conformed in every way to the Conservative imagery of Sambo.  Gone With the Wind is the most vivid example of the plantation tradition - the dimwitted slaves who would simply starve without their masters, the loving Mammy, the burley field hands who sang happily on their way to backbreaking labor in the swamps and cotton fields.  While we fortunately don't see these images today (or do we?), they remain fixed in our cultural past.  gwthw.jpg (49788 bytes)

 

 

What stereotypes do these two Looney Tunes cartoons promote about African Americans?

You can find more of these types of cartoons at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia web site.  

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Both the Conservative and Radical images - the brute and the child - can be seen through the popular imagery of black portrayals on posters, newspaper and magazine ads, product labels, and items such as piggy-banks and garden statues. 

Black_ads5.jpg (44623 bytes) These images often had nothing to do with the items they were attached to but rather were attempts - either conscious or subconscious - at strengthening black inferiority.  These types of images served to justify prejudice and discrimination against African Americans. Black_ads6.jpg (49521 bytes)
brute.jpg (36318 bytes) And, of course, there was a psychological response by whites to such images.  For instance, would you let a child vote or serve on a jury?  Would you let a criminal work as a police officer?  These images both shaped and reflected white attitudes toward blacks.


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