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Maker(s):Sekaer, Peter
Culture:American (1901-1950)
Title:Anniston, Alabama
Date Made:1936
Materials:gelatin silver print
Measurements:Sheet: 8 1/2 x 10 in; 21.6 x 25.4 cm; Image: 7 1/4 x 9 1/2 in; 18.4 x 24.1 cm
Accession Number:  AC 1991.21
Credit Line:Purchase with Richard Templeton (Class of 1931) Photography Fund
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

An iron staircase runs diagonally across the image with "COLORED" on its side. Two African-American men stand beneath the staircase and two boys stand at the foot of the stairs. Movie poster "Call of the Savage" is posted on back wall near stairs.

Label Text:
Sekaer often critically observed racial inequality by including the segregating words of the “Jim Crow” laws in his photographs. Here, Sekaer captures the clearly labeled “COLORED” entrance of a movie theater. The poster for the “jungle thriller” The Call of the Savage is similarly replete with racist connotations. Like the better-known Tarzan stories, it perpetuated the denigrating notion of the savage “ethnic” other. Although raised in the jungle, the Caucasian protagonist is implied to be inherently more civilized than his dark-skinned counterparts, allegorically represented in the poster by a highly anthropomorphized ape.

While “COLORED” is painted in white, seeming to reinforce the sense of a Caucasian voice of authority, one man is splattered in white paint, which suggests an additional, conflicting reading: this man may have painted the sign. Professor Elizabeth Abel posits that this represents his claim to some degree of ownership of the identifying word.

MD, PHOTOdocument exhibition, March 30, 2012-July 22, 2012

African American; figures; men; racism; text; theater

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