“Rosie the Riveter” was a Black woman

I’m off for another all-day work event that will leave me without internet, not even on the iPhone, so I leave you with some cultural anthropology to muse over as you while away your Friday.

I read the Denver Post all the time online but I somehow missed last week’s photo gallery of rare color pictures taken in the US during the Depression and World War II:

These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.

The color plates are absolutely breathtaking. The images bring a time alive that many of us only heard of through our grandparents or saw in detached black-and-white photographs. I was not fully prepared for how the color made me think differently about those times and have more empathy for those who lived through those hard times.

Two photographs are particularly noteworthy to me: #54 and #66.

The first shows a group of women railroad workers having lunch in 1943, a time when so many men were off to war that workforce necessity overruled the gender roles that permeated the post-war 1950s and beyond.

The second photo shows an African-American woman installing rivets into an airplane in a scene reminiscent of the motivational “We Can Do It!” war campaign of Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter was based on a Norman Rockwell painting I had the good fortune of seeing displayed one summer in Aspen, Colorado. Not well-appreciated about the original painting (which appeared on the May 29, 1943 cover of The Saturday Evening Post) is that the stout woman is shown eating her sandwich on a stool with her riveter while resting her foot on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The Wikipedia entry on this campaign is fascinating and, interestingly, features photo #66 as the first in the entry.

I’m not an anthropologist but I find these images striking because they represent a time when societal needs outweighed our feeble penchant for racial and gender discrimination.

Many thanks to Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing for making us aware of this photo gallery.

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5 thoughts on ““Rosie the Riveter” was a Black woman

  1. Pingback: Rosie the Riveter was Black « Sun Dappled Forest

  2. It’s good to know the war effort had this effect at least in some places – the history I’ve read of our particular locality was not encouraging in this respect. A parallel effect occurred within the military, as I understand it; people who served together overcame racial tensions because survival was more important than propriety.

  3. Speaking of Rockwell, “Boys Fishing in a Bayou”, (#39), looks like a Rockwell painting depicting a Mark Twain scenario. A truly remarkable and heartwarming collection, Abel, thanks for putting this up.

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