Two photos, two newspapers, one war: PhD candidate Pamela Walcks study of race in WWII American media
In 1942, The New York Times ran a photo of a "scared, uncertain unit of black troops just landing in Northern Ireland." Their platoon leaders--two white gentlemen--stood off to the side of the picture, as per the societal norms of the stateside audience.
Around the same time, The Chicago Defender also published a photo of African American troops, but surrounding a white British soldier, "smiling and enjoying themselves."
According to PhD candidate Pamela Walck, the latter image "tells a story of equality and camaraderie that...is very different for African American troops in the U.K. from that in the U.S."
In her study, "Reporting Jim Crow Abroad: Press Images and Words for African-American Deployments in World War II," Walck offers readers a semiotic examination of media coverage of race during America’s first year in overseas combat.
Ms. Walck presented her work at this summer’s AEJMC conference in Montreal.
From the abstract of Pam’s paper:
"Prior to the civil rights movement, African Americans rarely appeared in mainstream newspapers unless they were glamorous entertainers, tremendous athletes or frightening criminals. Growing scholarship argues that Americas march into World War II marked a turning point toward racial equality in the United States."