MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE: “The Voices of the White South” (1956)


In the mid-1950s, LIFE magazine published a multi-part series that was titled “The Background of Segregation” exploring how the politically-violently-ethically charged issue was playing out from a Jim Crow South to the first fiery stirrings of the heroic Civil Rights movement. Today, here we sit, our cities crumbling – segregation (race, socio-economics, class, ideology) and racism continuing to describe our nation. The African-American communities in our cities are largely ravaged (Detroit, Camden, Gary, Flint, Buffalo, Baltimore, Birmingham, New Orleans, etc.), blamed and ignored. Only by looking back, can we understand what is reality and from it, work to change the present.



African-American maid prepares a white family’s supper in Greenville, SC, 1956. @

Two black men arrested for disorderly conduct in Greenville, S. Carolina, 1956.


Today (on the eve of the 2012 South Carolina GOP primary, in which the issue of race and poverty are again making headlines) is running a gallery of unpublished color photographs by the great Margaret Bourke-White, shot in South Carolina in 1956 for a third installment of the “Background” series – the article (above), titled “The Voices of the White South” – profiled “normal” white citizens who, for a myriad of “reasons”, fervently supported segregation.

Take a look and remind yourself of where we came from.


For the full gallery, click here


(© Life Magazine. All rights reserved. All images © copyright the photographer and/or publisher)

Posted in Documentary Photography, Essays, Historical Photography, Race & Class and tagged , , , , .