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This week's cover of The Nation features Obama with more than 60 civil rights icons.
January 15, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

When Obama takes the oath of office, he won't be standing alone. This week's cover of The Nation features a portrait of an Obama inauguration presided over by Thurgood Marshall and attended by more than 60 civil rights icons.

Some of the faces are familiar. Some we may not know as well. And far too many of them were taken too soon.
posted by harperpitt (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where's Jesse Jackson? Al Sharpton?
posted by Hachijuhachi at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2009


I hate to be an ass, but while the idea is nice, the conception just looks . . . ugly and amateurish. Better than I could do, to be sure, but it is just a really weak illustration.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:01 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a note on Daily Kos from the artist, John Mavroudis.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2009


D'oh, didn't read the first link! sigh... where's that insta-edit....
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2009


61. Jesse Jackson

No Sharpton though. I don't know enough about the Civil Rights movement to say if that's a big oversight or not. I'm thinking they probably dropped lots of people that people think deserve a spot. (And no doubt people will show up and complain about that.)

No James Baldwin?!
posted by chunking express at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2009


Hey look, it's Harvey Milk! I'll be he's all excited to hear Rick Warren's invocation comparing Harvey to a pederast!
posted by orthogonality at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


No James Baldwin?!

No Richard Wright either, sadly.
posted by availablelight at 1:10 PM on January 15, 2009


I agree it's a sucky illustration, and I'm glad to see Jesse is indeed on there (even though he's way farther back than he should be). I started getting all slobbery when I saw the 4 little girls in the front. Tuesday is going to hit me a lot harder than I imagine, i'm thinking.
posted by cashman at 1:10 PM on January 15, 2009


Hey Chunking -
I'm hoping that Jackson and Sharpton were left off on purpose. Jackson certainly was right in the mix through the height of the King days, but since then he and Sharpton have both just become media whores, latching onto any possible publicity they can manage.

But you're right, that when you limit a list like that to 60, you're bound to leave some important people off, but that's just the nature of it.
posted by Hachijuhachi at 1:10 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope Rick Warren is the last civil rights mistake made by President-elect Obama. Because it's a doozy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


My bad - I honestly thought the list ended at 60. I'm done spamming this thread now.
posted by Hachijuhachi at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2009


And far too many of them were taken too soon.

MLK jr's birthday is today. He would have been 80. While it's doubtful he could have lived this long, it would have been extraordinary to have him see Obama inaugurated.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2009


I agree with the sentiment, but yeah, that's a lousy illustration for the cover of a magazine. Out of context, I'd think it was the work of a moderately talented high-schooler.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:22 PM on January 15, 2009


...though all rational discussion and critique aside....the four little girls in the front row with Emmett Till has already got me all misted up again, despite myself, like that first week of November. Dammit.
posted by availablelight at 1:26 PM on January 15, 2009


Brandon

If MLK, Jr. had lived this long, would there even be a Obama inauguration? In my mind's eye MLK, Jr. would have been pushed out of the limelight by more radical forces, and the whole white backlash thing could have gotten real ugly.
posted by Gungho at 1:28 PM on January 15, 2009


Yeah, I get the point and it is exciting about the significance of the day, but I think the execution is piss poor.

For the life of me, I cannot see any association between Harvey Milk, Henry David Thoreau, Emmett Till, Ghandi and the inauguration of Obama.
posted by dios at 1:28 PM on January 15, 2009


Wouldn't a true triumph of civil rights be in the accomplishment of not trumpeting the achievement so we can let ourselves work toward color blindness?
posted by crapmatic at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2009


MLK jr's birthday is today. He would have been 80. While it's doubtful he could have lived this long, it would have been extraordinary to have him see Obama inaugurated.

Jesus. You just reminded me of why I was so happy to see Obama elected and that, despite the number of ways he's disappointed me and will continue to do so, that the election of Obama is really, really something.
posted by stet at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2009


Why did he choose a graphic design concept that made them all look, well, umm...white?
posted by Muddler at 1:38 PM on January 15, 2009


Wouldn't a true triumph of civil rights be in the accomplishment of not trumpeting the achievement so we can let ourselves work toward color blindness?

Sure. But we're talking about the first black president in 200 and change years, begrudging people a moment of pride is kind of petty, I think. Of course, once he gets down to the business of governing, I'll savage him as ruthlessly as any other politician if I think he deserves it. But the inauguration...yeah, we all can have a moment of celebration and pride about it.
posted by jonmc at 1:45 PM on January 15, 2009


In my mind's eye MLK, Jr. would have been pushed out of the limelight by more radical forces.

Seeing as, at the end of his life, MLK had moved toward a pure critique of class, rather than just race, and his viewpoints had pretty much become explicitly socialist, I suspect it is more likely he would have been push out of the limelight by the more moderate forces.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:48 PM on January 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Where's Jesse Jackson? Al Sharpton?

Outside, profiteering.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:49 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great concept, but I agree it wasn't executed very well.

And dios, if you put you mind to it, I bet you could find reasons for the folks you mention. Harvey Milk is the most obvious to my mind. But, alas, we live in an age where we'd rather be spoon fed than be challenged to think.
posted by Eekacat at 2:29 PM on January 15, 2009


Seeing as, at the end of his life, MLK had moved toward a pure critique of class, rather than just race, and his viewpoints had pretty much become explicitly socialist, I suspect it is more likely he would have been push out of the limelight by the more moderate forces.

Quoted for truth. Here's a good article that looks at how much more of a radical King really was towards the end.
posted by scody at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2009


For the life of me, I cannot see any association between [...] Emmett Till [...] and the inauguration of Obama.

Think, dios. Think hard.
posted by scody at 2:43 PM on January 15, 2009


Harvey Milk is obvious? Not to me. There is absolutely no correlation between him and what makes the swearing in important. Same with the other three I pointed out. Obama's swearing is important because it is a symbol of a country that has moved towards to resolving the race issue that continues to bedevil us. It is a sign that in the matter of a couple generations, a country could move from giving the rights of personhood and to vote to black person to electing one to the highest office. It shows that the defect in our electoral system identified by Dean John Hart Ely can resolve itself.

If you were to draw a diagram to connect those 4 people and what is historical about this event, then I would not see the correlation. Of the four I listed, the closest would be Emmett Till who suffered the effects of racism, but Emmett was not a civil rights activist. Rather, he was a boy who was subjected to criminal acts of horrible racists and became a symbol only in death of the ugliness of racism. But I don't think Obama is any sense standing on the shoulders of Emmett Till in the same way that he is of Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, etc.
posted by dios at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2009


On non-preview: scody, my last comment should address your issue with my statement. I guess I am looking at this as like an academy award speech. "I would not be here tonight without the efforts of ....." Emmett Till does not seem to fit that in the same was as MLK or Rosa Parks or the like.

It just strikes me as the artist just throwing together a bunch of half-thought ideas to fill the space. But hey, at least the artist creator did not slap Che in there. So at least there is that.
posted by dios at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2009


"One cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into."

Harvey Milk's involvement in furthering civil rights — and not just civil rights for gay folks — is a pretty well understood piece of American history. On that basis, he is in good company with the many civil rights heros in this painting.

That aside, as the first openly gay politician elected to public office in California, his inclusion as an accomplished representative of a minority group is no more objectionable than Barbara Jordan's, for being the first black female state Representative of Texas, or — yes — Barack Obama, for being the first black President of the United States.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:06 PM on January 15, 2009


Dios, you're being weirdly literal about what the cover image is supposed to "mean." Emmett Till didn't make any specific "efforts" for civil rights as an activist, that's true. But his torture and murder helped serve notice of the hideous depths of racism in this country -- particularly due to Mamie Till Bradley's insistence to hold an open-casket funeral so the world could see what happened to her boy. It wasn't just that he was killed so terribly, or even just that his death was a symbol of the worst effects of racism. His murder -- and his murderers' subsequent aquittals -- was one of the events that helped galvinize the civil rights movement itself.
posted by scody at 3:17 PM on January 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


scody, fair enough. As I said, he's the closest of the four that I listed. Gandhi? Thoreau? Harvey Milk? (I'm quite certain that if there was not a movie about Harvey Milk out right now that he would not have made that cover; moreover, it feels like lazy co-opting---like the author wanted to suggest this has some significance for gay people without knowing we already had a gay president.)

I'm not like deeply offended or find it really objectionable; the cover just strikes me as amateur and half-assed. It strikes me as pretty superficial and tenuous. And when I'm watching the ceremony, the importance of the moment will move me and it will have nothing to do with Thoreau or Milk.




Because someone will ask: it was Buchanan.
posted by dios at 3:43 PM on January 15, 2009


While Thoreau was best known for living in the woods, he was also a staunch opponent of slavery. His essay On Civil Disobedience was cited by MLK as a major influence.
posted by rocket88 at 4:07 PM on January 15, 2009


Because someone will ask: it was Buchanan.
posted by dios at 3:43 PM on January 15


I think you mean we've already had two gay Presidents.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:20 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because someone will ask: it was Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT?
posted by scody at 4:32 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


George Bush is making his final speech and we're live blogging it over at PoliticalFilter. Come on over and bring an image or two.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:51 PM on January 15, 2009


File me up for another "man, that is one sucko drawing". I realize one has to keep one's head up high as they pursue their dream and expression, but dude... go to school.
posted by jscott at 5:02 PM on January 15, 2009


I hope Rick Warren is the last civil rights mistake made by President-elect Obama. Because it's a doozy.

Good grief. He's asking the dude to say a prayer, not to craft a Constitution amendment. It doesn't have any practical import whatsoever, and to the extent that it has symbolic import, even that is balanced out by Gene Robinson. It's not a doozy. It barely rises to the level of a trifle. I hope the lefties don't wet their pants every time an obviously progressive President throws a bone to the evangelicals.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:12 PM on January 15, 2009


rocket88: point taken. Shame on me for calling that out! /wipes egg
posted by dios at 5:25 PM on January 15, 2009


Because someone will ask: it was Buchanan.

First off, that's hardly official. But regardless, there's a world of difference --- it's not like Buchanan was campaigning as openly gay. Electing a closeted gay president (if indeed he was) is not even close to electing an openly gay president. The latter would be comparable to Obama's election.

Just like if we'd elected a President who was "passing" for white, that would not mean the same thing that electing a President people know is black does.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:05 PM on January 15, 2009


It barely rises to the level of a trifle.

Except, of course, if you're one of the people who are being refused basic equality under the law by jerks like Rick Warren.

To say that Obama giving a platform to Rick Warren "barely rises to the level of a trifle" - on a day when he's celebrating his own victory as America's first black president - displays a tone-deafness on civil rights and fundamental equality that is frankly disgusting.
posted by mediareport at 8:04 PM on January 15, 2009


To say that Obama giving a platform to Rick Warren "barely rises to the level of a trifle" - on a day when he's celebrating his own victory as America's first black president - displays a tone-deafness on civil rights and fundamental equality that is frankly disgusting.

"One cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into." Which is to say that people who believe that Warren is harmless probably cannot be reasoned with. In any case, I hope that throwing Gene Robinson scraps is not Obama's notion of equality for all Americans. I guess we'll find out what Obama really thinks soon enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:28 PM on January 15, 2009


I thought it was interesting to see John Brown included - seems like a sort of controversial choice. I've always thought he was a fascinating figure.

Too bad it's so ugly - I like the concept a lot.
posted by naoko at 8:50 PM on January 15, 2009


I suppose it was intentional that Jackie Robinson is #42 on the list.
posted by litlnemo at 6:11 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice editorial from the Meridian (Miss.) Star, reflecting back on the civil rights movement and on the murder of James Chaney, Michael Schwermer, and Andrew Goodman:
I can't imagine that as a line of cars (filled with Klansmen) chased Chaney and the other two civil rights workers to their eventual death he could have ever imagined what will transpire in Washington on Tuesday.

But maybe he did. Maybe it was that thought that empowered him to change racial attitudes in East Mississippi.

There's no doubt the dream that Chaney and his fellow crusaders worked for — and died for — will be realized when Barack Obama is sworn in, his hand on the very Bible that Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on during his first term.
I am so humbled by the extraordinary courage of the likes of people like James Chaney, and on Tuesday I expect to be in tears of gratitude for them as well.
posted by scody at 7:51 PM on January 18, 2009


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