Ebony Magazine During the Civil Rights Era

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

In 2008 Ebony magazine made available much of its archive, dating all the way back to 1959. The archive can be read here, and it offers a fascinating perspective on America during the past. Most magazines write from the normal perspective of the white community. Ebony, however, writes from the quite different lens of black America. This perspective is quite interesting from the viewpoint of the modern reader.

All in all, most of the Civil Rights era passes quite unremarkably. It is quite hum-drum, as if nobody realizes what an enormous change is happening. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail is interspersed with articles such as “Should a Machine Select Your Mate?”

Some events are mentioned. The March on Washington gets front-page coverage on the November 1963 issue. On the other hand, the momentous passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act go entirely unwritten about.

It is really after the Civil Rights era that things seem to change. The tone, for instance, undergoes a subtle but clear shift. Before the Civil Rights era, Ebony’s tone was perhaps best described as aspirational and optimistic. It was aspirational in the sense that the magazine seemed to be aspiring to be white. The female models, for instance, looked like exact replicas of white ’60s models, with straight hair and skin so light many could have passed for white (to be fair, both trends are still occurring today). The tone was also optimistic and hopeful. There might be much discrimination against “Negroes,” as the magazine put it, but things would definitely get better.

After Civil Rights, however, this optimism and aspiration disappears – even as things do get very much better. The tone of Ebony shifts, to something that is more familiar to those acquainted with racial politics. It takes on a harder, more cynical edge. Ebony becomes less hopeful and optimistic, more demanding and proud. One example of this pride occurs in June 1966, when Ebony debuts a women wearing natural, non-straightened black hair. The title is “The Natural Look.”

The conversation becomes a lot more familiar in other ways. Before and during the Civil Rights era Ebony uses the word “Negro” in place of where the word “black” would be used today. Then one issue, in the summer of 1968, Ebony simply drops “Negro” and starts using “black.” In September 1966, another familiar term appears: “Black Power”. The next year, in October 1967, Ebony addresses the decaying inner city. A year later, Ebony starts using the term “ghetto.”

Fundamentally, by the late 1960s the voice of black America has essentially become the same as it is today. Ebony’s voice in 1960 is almost unrecognizable compared to its voice in 2011, but its tone in 1970 is pretty much the same as its tone today. The irony is that while in 1950s blacks occupied a far worse position in American society, their voice was a lot lighter and more optimistic. By 1970 the status of African-Americans had improved tremendously. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking, in comparing Ebony’s tone in 1958 to its tone in 1968, that blacks were worse off in 1968 than they were in 1958. 


The 2010 Midterm Elections, and the Black Shift Republican

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Republican strategists often refer to the African-American community with a tone of hopelessness. Blacks are just so, so amazingly Democratic. No matter what the Republican Party does, these people think, the black vote inevitably ends up giving Democrats more than 85% of the vote. Even when the Republican candidate himself or herself is African-American, the black community still votes around 80% Democratic. This hopelessness is especially pronounced in the age of Obama, an individual to whom the black vote is uniquely loyal (as the first black president).

It is true that blacks vote very, very Democratic. In other ways, however, they behave quite like other groups of voters.

Take the 2010 midterms elections. These were a disaster for the Democratic Party, which took a pounding and lost the House of Representatives. The Democratic share of the vote plummeted, hurt by a weak economy and unpopular policies:

Democratic Republican Margin 2010 House Elections 44.8 51.6 6.8 2008 House Elections 53.2 42.5 10.7 2008 Presidential Election 52.87 45.6 7.27

In this rightward shift, everybody voted more Republican than in 2008. Every region of the country was redder. Women voted more Republican. Men did. Republicans did. Independents did, especially so. Democrats did too. With regards to ethnicity, Americans of every race and nationality voted more Republican. Hispanics did. Asians did. Native Americans and Pacific Islanders did. Whites did, very much so.

So did blacks:

Democratic Republican Margin Black Vote: 2010 House Elections 89 9 80 Black Vote: 2008 House Elections 93 5 88 Black Vote: 2008 Presidential Election 95 4 91

Now, this table obviously shows that blacks still voted very Democratic in 2010. The point, however, is that – like everybody else – blacks also shifted Republican in 2010. The presence of President Barack Obama did not magically prevent Republicans from gaining black votes in 2010.

It is true that Republicans gained less amongst blacks:

2010 Republican Improvement From…
2008 House Elections 2008 Presidential Election Overall 17.5 14.1 Blacks 8 11

Partly this is because blacks are a highly Democratic constituency. When the nation as a whole shifts Republican, highly loyal Democrats move less rightwards than the average. Partly this is due to Mr. Obama’s popularity amongst blacks.

Without this rightward shift in the black vote, however Republican victories in Illinois or Pennsylvania’s senate races would have been a lot closer – or turned into losses altogether. The same holds true for close Republican victories in the Ohio and Florida gubernatorial elections. Democrats would probably hold a handful more House seats, from North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district to Alabama’s 2nd congressional district.

If Republicans had done the same amongst blacks as they did in 2008, Democrats would have won a number of races they lost. The Republican gain amongst blacks played an important part of their overall national victory.


From the other side: Why Blacks said yes to Prop 8

As someone who is getting pretty tired of my race and faith  being blamed for Prop 8 passing, I thought the gay activists on this board would like to hear from one of thier own. I ran across this article written by a black lesbian. She sums up my thoughts better than I could.

http://www.blackamericaweb.com/?q=articl es/news/the_state_of_black_america_news/ 2295

Dear California, Here's Where They Went Wrong With Proposition 8
Date: Monday, November 10, 2008, 1:17 pm
By: Jasmyne A. Cannick, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com

I am a perfect example of why the fight against Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, failed to win black support.

I am black. I am a political activist who cares deeply about social justice issues. I am a lesbian. This year, I canvassed the streets of South Los Angeles and Compton, knocking on doors, talking politics to passers-by and working as I never had before to ensure a large voter turnout among African-Americans. But even I wasn't inspired to encourage black people to vote against the proposition.

Why? Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please. At a time when blacks are still more likely than whites to be pulled over for no reason, more likely to be unemployed than whites, more likely to live at or below the poverty line, I was too busy trying to get black people registered to vote, period; I wasn't about to focus my attention on what couldn't help but feel like a secondary issue.

The first problem with Proposition 8 was the issue of marriage itself. The white gay community never successfully communicated to blacks why it should matter to us above everything else - not just to me as a lesbian but to blacks generally. The way I see it, the white gay community is banging its head against the glass ceiling of a room called equality, believing that a breakthrough on marriage will bestow on it parity with heterosexuals. But the right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights. Does someone who is homeless or suffering from HIV but has no healthcare, or newly out of prison and unemployed, really benefit from the right to marry someone of the same sex?

There's more...

Mich. GOP Targets Foreclosure Victims for Election Day Dirty Tricks

Cross-posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

Partisan political operatives in Michigan are taking voter caging operations to depths that would surprise even the most cynical observers of American elections. If their plans are put into action, thousands of Michigan foreclosure victims may find that they will not only have lost their homes this year, but also their vote.

There's more...

Minorities now the Majority in Key States in the US

No wonder our "Xenophobe in Chief" Lou Dobbs is looking more worried each day. While we Democrats talk of turning red states blue, the demographic map  of the rainbow of people who make up the diverse population of the US is shifting, and in many areas of the US, "minorities" (a euphemism for people  of color; blacks, latinos, asians and Native Americans) are now the majority.

The US Census Bureau's  recent report shows interesting shifts in racial/ethnic demographics.

The NY Times reports:
Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20

Foreshadowing the nation's changing makeup, one in four American counties have passed or are approaching the tipping point where black, Hispanic and Asian children constitute a majority of the under-20 population, according to analyses of census figures released Thursday.

There's more...


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