1 Feb 2012

History Month

February kicks off Black History Month - a reminder of not just the history of black people, their accomplishments, and how they rose up against inequality and intolerance, but it's also a reminder of the history of the people who challenged progress (or, to be exceedingly kind about it, "didn't know any better"). It is the history of a multicultural society that has made leaps forward, and can continue to make leaps forward, provided that we learn from the past.

A little while ago, I shared one of my not-so-fun vintage finds, an article from 1965 about neighbours giving their opinion on the prospect of a "Negro family" moving onto their street. While I can't claim to have the most extensive of vintage media collections, that article was among the earliest I had in my hoard pile possession that straight-forwardly dealt with race relations and bigotry. Because I tend to collect magazines and books targeted to women in the 1950s, the content of the material I have is decidedly focused on homemaking, family relationships, and fashion. Current events tended to take a back seat to "Easy Flower Arrangements You'll Love" and "How To Choose A Fur".

But if you specifically look for examples of how civil rights and attitudes around race were addressed in the 1950s mainstream media, you'll surely find them. Below is a half-hour drama called Crossroads that aired on CBC in 1957. Directed by the National Film Board's Don Haldane, Crossroads is a "sensitive drama that tells the story of a couple, Roy and Judy, and the reactions they encounter when they announce their intention to marry, reactions complicated by the fact that Roy is black and Judy is white."

According to what I've researched, Crossroads was well received by the Canadians who watched it on TV in 1957 and was applauded for its sensitive and accurate portrayals of people at the time. One wonders how it would have gone over in the United States.

It's interesting and sad, inspiring and infuriating, and it's a part of your history and mine, regardless of where our ancestors came from. It's a history that shapes relations and politics today within our countries, and it's hopefully a history was can continue to learn from.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  2:21 pm, February 01, 2012  

Sadly, it wouldn't go over in all of the US TODAY, let alone 40 years ago. We have a man running for President who asserts that the Civil Rights Act should never have been passed because it "interferes with the free market"- and that's A-OK with folks in these parts (Kansas). Even the Christian Missionaries I went to school with. I can't describe how ugly "heartland, real" American attitudes are looking these days. Thanks for writing this. I love that you aren't pretending that progress is over and accomplished.

Karen 3:29 pm, February 01, 2012  

I love this find - and that it's Canadian. I know things aren't perfect (just ask any aboriginal person) but it feels like our country has historically had a greater ability to "walk the talk" when it comes to equality vs. our dear neighbours to the south. Obviously people had issues with interracial marriage here (and I'm sure some still do), but the fact that a sympathetic short like this could be made in 1957 indicates to me that attitudes just have been different here than in the US.

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