open Vault

WGBH Media Library and Archives

African Americans in the paintings of Norman Rockwell

  • Cite

Summary
Carmen Fields reports that the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA is commemorating Black History Month by exhibiting Norman Rockwell's work featuring African Americans. Fields interviews Maureen Hart Hennessey (curator, Rockwell Museum) about Rockwell's paintings depicting events in the civil rights movement, including The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi. Fields notes that Rockwell did these paintings for Look Magazine in the 1960s. Fields and Hennessey discuss the portrayal of African Americans in Rockwell's earlier work for the Saturday Evening Post, including The Boy in the Dining Car. Hennessey talks about an African American family in Stockbridge who modeled for Rockwell. She notes that the children of the family modeled for the paintings, The Problem We All Live With and New Kids in the Neighborhood. Fields' report includes footage of tour guides at the museum talking about specific paintings during museum tours. This tape includes additional footage of the Rockwell Museum and of Rockwell's paintings.

This edition of the Ten O'Clock News also included the following item:
Shirley Owens Hicks, Byron Rushing and Louis Elisa talk about cuts to the state budget
Topics
African Americans in art, Art and artists, Civil rights, Segregation, Representation (Philosophy), Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge
Tags (0)
Add Tag Add Annotation

Log

1:00:10: Visual: Footage of Maureen Hart Hennessey (curator, Rockwell Museum) saying that American painter Norman Rockwell's work tells a lot about how America viewed the civil rights movement. Hennessey points out that there was often a lag time between the occurrence of an actual event and the publishing of a Rockwell painting portraying the event. Hennessey says that it took time before these events entered "the mainstream consciousness." Shots of the Rockwell paintings, The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi. Shots of visitors on a tour of the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. Carmen Fields reports that the Rockwell Museum is commemorating Black History Month by exhibiting Rockwell's work featuring African Americans. V: Shots of paintings on display for the exhibit. Fields notes that Rockwell's first piece of work featuring an African American was from 1934. V: Footage of a tour guide at the Rockwell Museum speaking to visitors. She stands in front of a painting. The tour guide talks about illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post done by Rockwell. The tour guide notes that the Saturday Evening Post was aimed at white readers; that African Americans were often pictured in a subserviant position or not at all. Shots of two pieces of art hanging on the wall of the museum. Fields says that Peter Rockwell was the model for The Boy in the Dining Car, which was on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in the 1940s. V: Shot of The Boy in the Dining Car. Footage of Hennessey being interviewed by Fields. Hennessey says that the painting focuses on the white boy in the painting; that many people are more drawn to the African American waiter who is standing beside the table in the painting. Hennessey notes that most white Post readers encountered African Americans as workers in subserviant positions. Fields reports that none of Rockwell's work from the late 1940s to the early 1960s featured people of color; that Rockwell was caught up in the turbulence of the 1960s while working for Look Magazine. Fields notes that one of Rockwell's most famous paintings portrays school desegregation in the South. V: Shots of a male tour guide at the Rockwell Museum talking to visitors. Shots of visitors in the gallery. Shots of paintings in the gallery. Shot of the painting, The Problem We All Live With. Footage of Hennessey saying that Rockwell paid great attention to detail. Hennessey talks about Rockwell's efforts to capture the details of the painting, The Problem We All Live With. Footage of a tour guide at the Rockwell Museum speaking to visitors about the painting, Murder in Mississippi. Shots of the tour guide; of the painting. The tour guide talks about the details of the painting. Fields reports that Look Magazine opted to publish a less detailed version of the painting, Murder in Mississippi; that the original was too graphic. V: Shot of a less detailed version of the painting. Fields reports that Rockwell used his neighbors as models for his paintings of African Americans; that his neighbors were the only African Americans in the area. V: Shots of black and white photographs of Rockwell's models. Footage of Hennessey talking about an African American family who lived in Stockbridge. Hennessey says that the children of the family were used as models in the paintings The Problem We All Live With and New Kids in the Neighborhoodl Shot of the painting, New Kids in the Neighborhood. Fields reports that Rockwell has been described as apolitical; that his works were commissioned by others. V: Shot of a black and white photo of Rockwell sitting in front of his painting, The Golden Rule. Shots of the painting The Golden Rule. Audio of Hennessey saying that Rockwell was a "social commentator." Hennessey says that Rockwell could have retired when he left the Saturday Evening Post in 1963; that Rockwell began doing paintings about the civil rights movement after 1963. Hennessey says that she believes that Rockwell supported the civil rights movement.