Between 1879 - 1890 Currier & Ives issued a series of color lithographs embracing all the worst stereotypes about Black Americans. Its Darktown series was, in fact, one of Currier & Ives' best-sellers, one print alone selling an astounding 73,000 copies.
Darktown was an African-American neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. It stretched from Peachtree Street and Collins Street (now Courtland Street), past Butler Ave. (now Jesse Hill Jr. Ave.) to Jackson Street. It referred to the blocks above Auburn Avenue in what is now Downtown Atlanta and the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Darktown was characterized in the 1930s as a "hell-hole of squalor, degradation, sickness, crime and misery".
The term "darktown" was also used generically in Atlanta and the rest of the South to refer to African-American districts. It is used as such in the title of the famous song Darktown Strutters' Ball.
The prints in the Darktown Series feature the full array of negative stereotypes about American Blacks in the post-Civil War period and underscore the American tradition of reducing Blacks to buffoonish cartoon characters. As such, this rare compilation bears painful, vivid testimony of the racial attitudes of white, middle class Americans during this time.
In 1948, Atlanta added eight black men to its police force. This was at a time when, as author Thomas Mullen explains, a 1947 Newsweek article "estimated that one-quarter of Atlanta policemen were, in fact, members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Knowing there would be stiff, maybe violent, resistance to the rookies' presence, Chief Herbert Jenkins assigned them a separate space. Instead of working from police headquarters, the black officers, under the oversight of a white captain, were relegated to the basement of the local "colored" YMCA.
The eight were sometimes likened to the police equivalent of Jackie Robinson, who'd made national headlines the year before as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.
"They could only patrol the black neighborhoods; they weren't supposed to set foot in the white parts of town," Mullen says. "They couldn't drive squad cars; they had to walk their beat with a partner." And perhaps worst of all, they couldn't arrest white people, Mullen explains. Even when crimes were committed right in front of them, the black rookies had to call for white assistance.
(S): 8.5x11 in
(M) 24x36 in
(L) 30x40 in
(XL) 60x40 in
Printed on High Quality Archival Metallic Paper
Hand signed and numbered.
Ships within 14 days of purchase