Wednesday 27 May 2015

Narrative images: How "the guy from the n*gger-loving magazine" fooled a racist mob

"I’ve never seen a meaner mob in my life than the one that surrounded [those two kids]. I felt nothing but sympathy for the students. I would shoot six to 10 frames and immediately change film in the camera. I’d put it in my left-hand pocket. I kept unexposed film in my right-hand pocket. These kids were literally run off by the mob. And the next thing said was, “Get the guy from the nigger-loving magazine.” There were at least three Texas Rangers in that crowd, and not one of them lifted a finger. The mob came at me and they said, “We want your film.”
I said, “Sure, you can have my film.” I opened the camera. I had already changed the roll. I carefully pulled out the film to expose it and gave it to them. It was just a blank roll of film, but I wasn’t going to have them develop it and have them come back at me for the real thing."
Joe Scherschel (interviewed by John Loengard in 1993)

LIFE photographer Joseph "Joe" Scherschel (1920-2004) was in Texas in 1956 to cover the struggle of the two black teenagers Steve Posten (17) and Jessalyn Gray (18) to integrate Texarkana Junior College. The photograph shows them waiting tensely beside a cab while hundreds of whites prevent them from entering the school. Jessalyn asked the police to escort them inside. The police refused, the students left (via). Posten's and Gray's segregation complaint, by the way, was dismissed (The Crisis, 1957).In 1952, the southwestern regional counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ulysses S. Tate, encouraged students to apply to their nearest junior college for admission and to watch the battles to open colleges such as Texarkana since "a right GAINED and not USED is NO right at all". Texarkana Junior College's resistance to desegregation "proved stiff" and legal battles followed (Shabazz, 2004).

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- The Crisis. A Record of the Darker Races (1957), edited by James W. Ivy, Vol. 64, No. 2, February 1957
- Shabazz, A. (2004). Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the struggle for access and equity in higher education in Texas. The University of North Carolina Press.
- photograph via