Part of the power of Reimaging Rockwell at the Montclair Art Museum is that it forces us to confront the narrowness of the representation in many of his paintings. But it’s also important to note that the narrow depictions of Americans in Norman Rockwell’s work wasn’t just a result of “the times,” or his blinkered views. They were formal policy.
Currently on view at the Rockwell museum in Massachusetts is a letter from Rockwell’s editor at the Saturday Evening Post ordering him to redraw a painting he had submitted with an African American depicted in a professional job. Why? Longstanding Saturday Evening Post policy, as the editor sternly reminded Rockwell in a letter that is displayed in the museum, was that no African American could appear in an illustration except in a submissive role.
White editors at the Saturday Evening Post knew the power of positive representation, and they forbade it. Rockwell eventually left the Post for Look magazine, where he was able to publish his iconic paintings of Ruby Bridges’ first day at an allwWhite school in New Orleans and of the Klan murders of the three civil right leaders in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Montclair Local’s Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.
Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail “Letters to the Editor,” 309 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer’s name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.
Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be eligible for potential publication in that week’s Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.
Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our “Town
Square” banner. “Town Square” essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to email@example.com at least seven days prior to publication.