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On the verso, rousing my curiosity, someone had penciled in at the top, “Springfield Race Riot,” and I noticed, also in faded pencil script, the word “nigers” within the message. The card shows a group of eight young men posing in uniform, with six of the men standing behind two who are kneeling.
As to context, the Springfield race riot took place in Springfield, Illinois over a two day period in August of 1908.
That racism was so endemic and embedded in our society as not to be especially noteworthy is as astonishing as its pernicious persistence even today.
Visitors to New York’s Central Park are quick to encounter a bucolic landscape; its Sheep Meadow on any pleasant afternoon will be full of those seeking sun, open space or a short reprieve from the unpleasant aspects of city life.
This page contains both original essays and comments on postcards as well as articles formally published in Metro News, the bi-monthly bulletin of the Metropolitan Postcard Club while I served as editor. However, the association of Blacks with watermelons in racist stereotyping was well known at the time, and has an interesting history.
Many of these reprinted articles have been enhanced on this website by adding additional content. After the slaves won their freedom, many grew and sold watermelons, and this became a symbol of their newfound freedom.