Norman Rockwell/2

I just wanted to do something important.”

Norman Rockwell‘s first assignment for “Look” magazine (see here) was an illustration published on the 14 January 1964 issue.
The title is “The Problem We All Live With” and it is considered an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. It is a painting where African-American people, for the first time in Rockwell’s career, are not placed in the background, so that advertisers do not abandon a magazine.

It depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, on her way to William Frantz Elementary School, an all-white public school in New Orleans, Louisiana. It happened on 14 November 1960, six years after a Supreme Court decision had declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional , an ordinance that the state legislature in Louisiana continued to ignore..
In 1960, Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the gradual desegregation of New Orleans public schools to begin on 14 November of that year.

That day, the girl was escorted by four U.S. Marshals while a riotous white mob organized by the local White Citizens’ Council gathered to protest her arrival, shouting hateful slurs, threats, and insults.

The following day , “The New York Times” reported: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School ….
Forty minutes later, four deputy marshals arrived with a little Negro girl and her mother. They walked hurriedly up the steps and into the yellow brick building while onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.
The girl, dressed in a stiffly starched white dress with a ribbon in her hair, gripping her mother’s hand tightly and glancing apprehensively toward the crowd.”

She was not welcomed. After getting past the angry white crowd to enter the classroom she found out that she and the teacher were the only two people present; it would remain that way for the rest of the school year. Within a week, nearly all of the white students of the whole school stopped attending classes simply because Ruby was there. And yet she persevered.

In his painting Rockwell captured the essence of this little black girl’s historic walk to school.
Due to threats of violence against her, she is accompanied and guarded by four U.S. Marshals. These men are all white. All are wearing business suits, yellow arm bands proclaiming their office and badges on the front of their suits.
The marshals are faceless: they are just doing their jobs. Can you see the court’s order for integration in sticking out of one of the jacket pocket of one of them?
The focus of the painting is little Ruby Bridges, wearing a white dress, probably one of her best clothes, that contrasts with her dark skin.
She is holding her two school books, a ruler and some pencils and looks very brave.
The whites protesting against the racial integration of the schools are not visible but the presence of the angry mob is indicated in the background of the painting.
On the wall are scrawled the racial slur “nigger” and the letters “KKK”; and a tomato has been thrown by one of the protesters and it looks as if it just barely missed little Ruby.
It was hurled so hard that it shattered and splattered, and parts of its pulp are scattered on the wall and the pavement.


At Bridges’ suggestion, President Barack Obama had the painting installed in the White House, in a hallway outside the Oval Office, from July to October 2011

“Volevo solo fare qualcosa di importante”.

Il primo incarico di Norman Rockwell per la rivista “Look” (vedi qui) fu un’illustrazione pubblicata nel numero del 14 gennaio 1964.
Il titolo è “The Problem We All Live With/Il problema con cui tutti viviamo “ ed è considerato un’immagine iconica del movimento per i diritti civili negli Stati Uniti. È un dipinto in cui l’afroamericano, per la prima volta nella carriera di Rockwell, non è posto in secondo piano, affinché gli inserzionisti non abbandonassero una rivista.

Raffigura Ruby Bridges, una bambina afroamericana di sei anni, diretta alla William Frantz Elementary School, una scuola pubblica di bianchi a New Orleans, in Louisiana. Accadde il 14 novembre 1960, sei anni dopo che una decisione della Corte Suprema aveva dichiarato incostituzionale la segregazione razziale nelle scuole pubbliche, un’ordinanza che i legislatori della Louisiana continuavano a ignorare.
Nel 1960 il giudice J. Skelly Wright ordinò che la graduale desegregazione delle scuole pubbliche di New Orleans iniziasse il 14 novembre dello stesso anno.

Quel giorno la ragazza fu scortata da quattro sceriffi federali mentre una folla bianca ribelle organizzata dal locale White Citizens’ Council si era riunita per protestare contro il suo arrivo, urlando insulti, minacce e ingiurie.

Il giorno seguente, il New York Times riportò: “Circa 150 bianchi, per lo più casalinghe e adolescenti, si sono raggruppati lungo i marciapiedi di fronte alla William Franz School…
Quaranta minuti dopo arrivarono quattro vice marescialli con una ragazzina negra e sua madre. Salirono in fretta i gradini ed entrarono nell’edificio di mattoni gialli mentre gli spettatori schernivano e urlavano insulti.
La ragazza, vestita con un vestito bianco rigidamente inamidato con un nastro tra i capelli, stringe forte la mano di sua madre e lancia uno sguardo apprensivo verso la folla.”

Non fu ben accolta. Dopo aver superato la folla di bianchi inferociti, scoprì che lei e l’insegnante erano le uniche due persone presenti nella classe; sarebbe rimasto così per il resto dell’anno scolastico. Nel giro di una settimana, quasi tutti gli studenti bianchi dell’intera scuola smisero di frequentare le lezioni semplicemente perché Ruby era lì. Eppure lei perseverò.

Nel suo dipinto Rockwell ha catturato l’essenza della storica camminata di questa ragazzina di colore verso la scuola.
È accompagnata e sorvegliata da quattro sceriffi federali, bianchi, con indosso abiti da lavoro, bracciali gialli che testimoniano il loro incarico e distintivi sulla parte anteriore dei loro abiti.
A causa delle minacce di violenza contro di lei, è scortata da quattro vice marescialli statunitensi; sono tutti bianchi. Tutti indossano abiti da lavoro e bracciali gialli che proclamano il loro ufficio. E distintivi sul davanti dei loro abiti.
Sono senza volto: persone che stanno solo facendo il loro lavoro. Riuscite a vedere l’ordinanza del tribunale per l’integrazione che punta dalla tasca della giacca di uno di loro?
Il fulcro del dipinto è la piccola Ruby Bridges, con un abitino bianco che contrasta con la sua pelle scura, probabilmente uno dei suoi vestiti migliori,
Ha in mano due libri, un righello e le sue matite e sembra molto coraggiosa.

I bianchi che stanno protestando contro l’integrazione razziale delle scuole non sono visibili ma sullo sfondo del dipinto è indicata la presenza della folla inferocita.
Sul muro sono scarabocchiati l’insulto razziale “negro” e le lettere “KKK”; e un pomodoro è stato lanciato da qualcuno e sembra che abbia mancato di poco la piccola Ruby. È stato scagliato con così tanta forza che si è frantumato e ha prodotto degli schizzi, mentre parti della sua polpa sono sparse sul muro e sul marciapiede.

Su suggerimento di Bridges, il presidente Barack Obama fece installare il dipinto alla Casa Bianca, in un corridoio fuori dallo Studio Ovale, da luglio a ottobre 2011.

Image: Flickr – Gandalf’s Gallery

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76 thoughts on “Norman Rockwell/2

  1. I have to thank you, Luisa, for writing this tribute to the exceptional illustrator, Norman Rockwell.
    The equality of humans is difficult to achieve, as we know from the news. Your valiant efforts are greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh my goodness, what a painful story, dear Luisa. The high racial segregation and its impact on the society’s progress then stings and stinks. Norman did a great job in that painting. Your explanation makes it even more understandable. What a way to treat a young girl whose dressing even indicates that she has embraced unity! I’m touched, I’ve cried at the meeting of this. I hope these will never repeat themselves in the history of mankind. 🥲🥲 Oh, quite a touching piece.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Quite sad! It is a thing so backward. I often wonder, what, in tarnation, do racial epithets gain by hating their fellow humans? 🤔 It stings indeed. Racism should have been a thing of the past in the history of the world. Unfortunately, some people have refused to embrace change and knowledge. Thanks for highlighting this. 🌟✅

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You write: “Racism should have been a thing of the past … but unfortunately, some people have refused to embrace change and knowledge. ”
        This is a very sad remark, and unfortunately so true 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, it’s true. Many thanks for noting. Today, I laud you, the late Norman and many more who have embraced change and knowledge and who root for equality. It is important if the world wants to attain all sorts of progress. 🤗

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This image is so significant and powerful. She is so crisp and small. The tomato is almost as big as she is. I never understood how a child could be such a horrible threat, that one would consider it rational to appear outside of anywhere to hurl insults and food at them. I can understand, to an extent, the racism that created the mindset of segregation and the vehemence that people attempted to protect it with. I cannot understand rationalizing trying to use a little child like that to make your point. If it is that weak, that your only recourse is aggression and violence toward children because you can’t face another adult, then go home and rethink your life, you’ve wasted it this far.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. JOHN STEINBECK’s “Travels With Charley” published in 1962 , contains his eyewitness account of that day. He seems to anticipate the central figure in Rockwell’s painting when he describes “the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in shining starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round. Her face and little legs were very black against the white.”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Bella, Luisa. Things have improved a bit. However, the recent turn of political events have made me wonder if the change has been a lot more superficial than we have imagined. People may be less blatant about their racism and try to cloak it in different words and phrases.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Not to get too American on you, but if our events of 6 January 2021 had had a majority-black protestors rather than white protestors, their reception would have been much different, as would have been the number of politicians that changed their version of what happened that day.

        Liked by 4 people

  5. Such a sad story, thank you for bringing it to light Luisa. The world is changing this days but there is still much differentiations and I hope one day it will be over. Looking forward to a better world. 💖

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Despite the forced changes, it appears you can not change what is in the minds, hearts and souls of some “humans”. Pity how we still label, shame and blame people for their appearance. Rockwell was definitely ahead of his time. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Ignorance and bigotry are everywhere for sure. America, though, has brainwashed itself for its entire existence and even before. It was born as the land of equality, liberty and freedom and throughout history. advertised itself as such to the world, the state-sponsored and legally mandated system of slavery and discrimination against but maintained slavery. Even after slavery ended, America maintained a widely supported system of legally mandated discrimination against Black citizens. The population which instituted these policies would swear to high heaven that America was a shining example of freedom and liberty for all. Now those same people rail against what they call critical race theory. Apparently because it doesn’t comport with the brainwashed idea they would like to hold onto. Has any other country had such a long-standing, fundamental misconception about itself? Now many here think we shouldn’t talk about America’s reality because undoing the brainwashing (what some call critical race theory) might make some of them feel bad.

        Like

      2. Thank you so much for this comment that I found so interesting and informative. I did not know anything about Critical race theory (and I looked for it on Wikipedia) even if I know that the race people belong to still makes a difference for example for the administration of penalties

        Like

  7. Con questo dipinto, Rockwell osa esplorare gli effetti del razzismo sui bambini. L’innocenza della ragazza viene evidenziata con grande successo, mettendo gli ufficiali giudiziari che si prendono cura di lei, grandi e la ragazza, piccola e con un’espressione che dimostra che è separata da ciò che le accade intorno. Attualmente, questa lotta per i diritti civili degli afrodiscendenti continua. Gli abusi contro di loro non si sono fermati e si stanno moltiplicando negli Stati Uniti. Un esempio recente sono le morti per mano di agenti di polizia bianchi.
    La vita del pittore è molto interessante dove il razzismo è un piatto servito per grandi discussioni.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. “It happened on 14 November 1960, six years after a Supreme Court decision had declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional , an ordinance that the state legislature in Louisiana continued to ignore..”

    Yes, Luisa, how interesting. The old slave trading nation in North America keeps being hit on the head with its own indecent past. Their past history comes back to them like a boomerang. Racial unrest in the USA will never end, it seems. And I wonder why the descendents of former slaves have not left those ungodly states long ago. There are surely better places to be inhabitated on earth, I believe.

    Thank you for this interesting post, Luisa. It is “food for thought”, as they say.

    Liked by 3 people

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