National Geographic Acknowledges Its Past Racist Coverage

To begin a year dedicated to the “exploration of race,” the National Geographic devotes its April 2018 issue to the topic. As Susan Goldberg, editor in chief and the first woman and Jewish person, “a member of two groups that also once faced discrimination” in the magazine, to hold that position, says, “we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.”  They asked John Edwin Mason,  University of Virginia professor specializing in the history of photography and the history of Africa, to examine the magazine’s archives and analyze the history of their coverage.  He found that “until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.” To read Goldberg’s complete essay, click here.

 

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