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The Enemy Within: The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Enemy Pictures

Abstract : Photography has played an obvious role in black liberation movements. In the fight for civil rights, both the supporters of segregation and its opponents forged a stereotyped picture of their enemy. Our hypothesis is that the photographs from the mainstream media played an ambiguous role. They participated in the creation of two types of enemy shown as a threat to democracy: the hateful and violent white supporter of segregation, on the one hand, and the hateful and violent black nationalists, on the other. Their images testified against racism, but also circumscribed the movement to narrow legal objectives. The northern media created a two-sided picture of the black activists. First, to exonerate the northern liberals, they offered a reassuring view of racism in which the enemy was the violently racist white-trash barbarians from the Old South. In these pictures the southern activists are helpless victims, as was the case with Rosa Parks in the most widely distributed pictures of her. Second, the black nationalists were later portrayed as hateful and violent and disrespectful of American values. In doing so, the Northern media forged a dichotomy between a supposed peaceful and nonviolent movement before 1964, and a violent and useless black power era after 1965. But history is more complex than suggested by these well-known pictures.
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Contributor : Olivier Maheo <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 11:05:42 AM
Last modification on : Friday, June 5, 2020 - 4:28:12 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-02769346, version 1


Olivier Mahéo. The Enemy Within: The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Enemy Pictures. Angles: French Perspectives on the Anglophone World, SAES – Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur, 2019, Creating the Enemy. ⟨halshs-02769346⟩



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