We frequently see today how mainstream media attempts to control the public’s perception of the Black community, but one artist is working to rewrite the type of racially charged narrative that plagued the community decades ago.
St. Louis artist Robert Green set out on a mission to dispel the myths that had once been created by years of stereotypical, degrading photos of Black people.
“Big lips, big butts, big noses, etcetera, nappy hair and all that,” Green said of the typical imagery that represented Black people, according to St. Louis American. “It was Jim Crow imagery it was the times.”
But it’s not the type of images featured in Green’s own exhibit titled “Indelible.”
The 60-year-old artist has put together a rather incredible collection of more than 100 historic photos that capture the side of Black culture that was often overlooked.
Black women were seen in dresses with their hair eloquently styled for the era.
Black men with expensive clothes and dapper swagger proved they were far from the tactless, unsophisticated stereotype that the media had often touted them to be.
“African-Americans were a dignified people,” Green added. “Coming up, I didn’t see photographs of that nature.”
Of course, that was no accident. This was a time when an essential part of maintaining control of the Black population was to also keep influence over them while simultaneously promoting white supremacy.
Images of lazy Black men and women or other stereotypical portrayals worked to fulfill such a purpose.
It’s a mission that many would argue continues on today, but Green has been adamant about combating that message.
His collection of photos contained images of Frederick Douglass and a pair of conjoined twins known as “the two-headed nightingale.”
Other images featured citizens who weren’t well known and didn’t feature an extravagant story although they fit the same “dignified” and pristine image of the other Black citizens in the exhibit.
The exhibit opens Friday at the Sheldon Art Galleries.