Human Cartoons: White Supremacist Visual Strategies in Mississippi Council Propaganda 1955-1989

This talk concerns two sets of images deployed by the White Citizens Councils in their attack on desegregation of public schools. The first, a series of  Bob Howie cartoons, appeared regularly in The Citizens Council newspaper from October 1955 to December 1958. In various ways, these images portray southern segregationists as victims of lawless, Communist, northern aggression and judicial tyranny.

The second, a collection of captioned news photographs depicting scenes of racialized crime and social unrest, appeared in The Citizen from 1959 to 1989. The cartoons and photographs display a clear ideological consistency despite substantial changes in the terms of their reception: while the CCA remained steadfast in its advocacy for segregation, the effectiveness of its appeals by the mid-1960s required the ability to resonate with purportedly non-racial, conservative values. Attention to the visual strategies of these images helps us to see how this transformation was achieved and, how defenders of  segregation successfully mobilized anti-black affect consistent with formally anti-racist norms.

These segregationist appeals were primarily bodily both in their use of bodily imagery and in their solicitation of bodily responses from viewers, which Golub theorizes as an affective politics of aversion and disgust. The photographs thus function as realist parallels to the earlier drawn images, transforming representations of actual black bodies into human cartoons.



Listen Online