Posted 2 years ago
It is practically impossible to study the total output of Leyendecker's semiotic (the study of signs) universe. Much of it has simply been lost: paper is quite a fragile commodity. I have made it a point to look at images of blacks on his covers. Black males are always portrayed in subservient positions--porters, butlers, gardeners-- with regard to their white "masters". However, in his portrayals of young boys, he does show how childhood camaraderie trumps any racism.
Pic. 1: Oct. 20, 1935. A black hobo as a seasonal sign, thumbing his way towards warmer (Southern) climates, a big smile on his face. The ducks reinforce the theme of migration.
Pic. 2: July 3rd., 1937. Two boys clinging to a lamppost in order to see the town's parade. Notice the contrast in attitude between the two boys, which is quite stereotypical. However, it may be that the black boy has quite good reasons for being scared, fooling around with a white boy on the 4th of July!
Pic. 3. November 6, 1937. A black gardener rakes and burns leaves while a small white boy gravely watches. An image from everyday life, it brings home one small fact: whites and blacks do not live in distinct and separate worlds. They share one country.
Pic. 4. Dec. 18, 1937. An implicit condemnation of the kind of racism that enables a small white boy to be solicitously serviced by a black porter (menial railroad jobs usually went to blacks) for a tip. The porter, ironically, towers over the boy. Remember what working black males were called at the time?
The four images above satisfy cultural perception of blacks in the 30's, while at the same time providing a counterdiscourse, a reminder that Afro Americans are an integral part of this country. All are from my personal collection.