esc-ism:

So, this started as something that I was writing mainly for the sake of getting it out of my head, but I thought it deserved to be in visual form, and it turned into this comic type thing (waaay longer than I expected it to be, too).  Clearly it’s intensely personal and different from anything I usually make or post, but I wanted to get it out there. It’s my own experience, of course, but I wrote in in plural form for a good reason: this could be anyone.
{EDIT: no one needs that long wine-induced rant, just know it was about how society is bullshit, etc]
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re beautiful to believe it. Fucking tell yourself. Do things because you want to, wear makeup if it makes you happy, wear whatever the fuck you want simply because you want to, indulge, and destroy anyone who tells you otherwise.
Zoom Info
esc-ism:

So, this started as something that I was writing mainly for the sake of getting it out of my head, but I thought it deserved to be in visual form, and it turned into this comic type thing (waaay longer than I expected it to be, too).  Clearly it’s intensely personal and different from anything I usually make or post, but I wanted to get it out there. It’s my own experience, of course, but I wrote in in plural form for a good reason: this could be anyone.
{EDIT: no one needs that long wine-induced rant, just know it was about how society is bullshit, etc]
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re beautiful to believe it. Fucking tell yourself. Do things because you want to, wear makeup if it makes you happy, wear whatever the fuck you want simply because you want to, indulge, and destroy anyone who tells you otherwise.
Zoom Info
esc-ism:

So, this started as something that I was writing mainly for the sake of getting it out of my head, but I thought it deserved to be in visual form, and it turned into this comic type thing (waaay longer than I expected it to be, too).  Clearly it’s intensely personal and different from anything I usually make or post, but I wanted to get it out there. It’s my own experience, of course, but I wrote in in plural form for a good reason: this could be anyone.
{EDIT: no one needs that long wine-induced rant, just know it was about how society is bullshit, etc]
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re beautiful to believe it. Fucking tell yourself. Do things because you want to, wear makeup if it makes you happy, wear whatever the fuck you want simply because you want to, indulge, and destroy anyone who tells you otherwise.
Zoom Info
esc-ism:

So, this started as something that I was writing mainly for the sake of getting it out of my head, but I thought it deserved to be in visual form, and it turned into this comic type thing (waaay longer than I expected it to be, too).  Clearly it’s intensely personal and different from anything I usually make or post, but I wanted to get it out there. It’s my own experience, of course, but I wrote in in plural form for a good reason: this could be anyone.
{EDIT: no one needs that long wine-induced rant, just know it was about how society is bullshit, etc]
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re beautiful to believe it. Fucking tell yourself. Do things because you want to, wear makeup if it makes you happy, wear whatever the fuck you want simply because you want to, indulge, and destroy anyone who tells you otherwise.
Zoom Info

esc-ism:

So, this started as something that I was writing mainly for the sake of getting it out of my head, but I thought it deserved to be in visual form, and it turned into this comic type thing (waaay longer than I expected it to be, too).  Clearly it’s intensely personal and different from anything I usually make or post, but I wanted to get it out there. It’s my own experience, of course, but I wrote in in plural form for a good reason: this could be anyone.

{EDIT: no one needs that long wine-induced rant, just know it was about how society is bullshit, etc]

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re beautiful to believe it. Fucking tell yourself. Do things because you want to, wear makeup if it makes you happy, wear whatever the fuck you want simply because you want to, indulge, and destroy anyone who tells you otherwise.

diasporicroots:

How Ethiopian Scientist Unearth 3.3-Million-Year-Old Child
 It was another December afternoon back in 2000, spent like hundreds of others combing the rocky hills of the Dikika region, when Ethiopian scientist Zeray Alemseged heard one of his assistants nearby calling him.
“He said ‘oh, doctor I see something there,’” recalls Alemseged, who’d been excavating the hot and dry landscape for over a year, helped only by a small inexperienced crew of locals. “And I went there and I see the cheek bone part … sticking out of the rock. I turned it upside down and my jaw literally dropped.”
Instantly, Alemseged realized this was an extraordinary discovery that could make scientific history.
“Right away I could tell this is a child of a human ancestor,” says the paleoanthropologist. “You have this child in a block of sandstone, with the baby teeth still visible, very vertical forehead, small canine,” he adds. “But it’s so rare and so unbelievable that I just couldn’t accept that was the case, that what I saw was the skeleton.”
Yet Alemseged did not want to make news of his discovery public until he had a more complete picture of what he’d unearthed. So he kept it quiet as he meticulously prepared and analyzed the fossil.
“The skeleton was encaved in a block of sandstone matrix, which is very densely compact, very inured sand, so that I had to go remove the sand grain by grain,” says Alemseged.
“So I took my time, and people advised me to employ technicians, and technicians can do that job, but I said ‘no, it’s going to take as long as it takes but I’m not going to delegate this work of the exploration of this unique child to anyone else but me.’”

Alemseged then spent years in the lab painstakingly picking away the sand grain by grain. By using a super microscope, he was able to see details in the teeth embedded in the skull that revealed to him the skeleton’s age and the sex. He now knew the fossil was that of a three-year-old girl who had died 3.3 million years ago.

Finally, after more than six long years, Alemseged was ready to present to the world “Selam,” the fossil known as “the world’s oldest child.”
“When the time came to go to the press conference,” remembers Alemseged, “it was like a woman is pregnant and she is holding that baby for nine months and when the baby comes out, what happens is — in spite of the pain, in spite of the long, tedious process of carrying the baby — you see her smiling, you see her beautiful wonderful face trying to share the baby with her husband or the doctor.
“So I shared my baby with the audience but the different thing is that I was sharing a child that belonged not only to me but to humanity, to seven billion individuals.”
That press conference in 2006 turned Alemseged, who was just 31 when he’d discovered Selam, into a hero in the world of science.
Over the next few years, his work took him all over the world, winning him international admiration for his achievements. Today Alemseged is the director of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, a multifaceted scientific institution and museum where he combines his scientific research with his passion for public education.

Skeletal remains of “Selam,” a three-year-old girl who died 3.3 million years ago. She is the earliest skeleton of an African child ever found.

“When I got involved in this type of research I decided to not only read what has already been discovered but also to make my own discoveries and I can proudly say that I have achieved that with the discovery of Selam and many other fossils,” he says. “Those finds are finds that change textbooks, literally, so I am happy but I’m not satisfied — I will be satisfied only if I could instill the same type of psychology, the same type of excitement, the same type of passion to the next generations of Africans.”
Alemseged, a father of two, enjoys the opportunity to share his findings with the world and possibly inspire a new generation of scientists.
In recent years, he’s teamed up with other scientists from his continent to create the East African Association for Paleoanthropology, a group holding regular conferences to bring together top scientists and researchers from the region and beyond.
And while his achievements have made him a success story that young Ethiopians can aspire to, Alemseged’s efforts to create a positive impact on young Africans are just a small step toward his ultimate goals.
“I think both my family and Ethiopia are proud of me, but I still think that I still have so much to offer, not just to Ethiopia, but to Africa and to humanity in general,” he says.
“My work is beyond nations, beyond nationalities, beyond continents — it unites everyone on the planet. So when I achieve that, I’m sure Ethiopia and my family are or will be proud of me and I thank them for all of the opportunities they have provided me with also.”
By: Earl Nurse
Zoom Info
diasporicroots:

How Ethiopian Scientist Unearth 3.3-Million-Year-Old Child
 It was another December afternoon back in 2000, spent like hundreds of others combing the rocky hills of the Dikika region, when Ethiopian scientist Zeray Alemseged heard one of his assistants nearby calling him.
“He said ‘oh, doctor I see something there,’” recalls Alemseged, who’d been excavating the hot and dry landscape for over a year, helped only by a small inexperienced crew of locals. “And I went there and I see the cheek bone part … sticking out of the rock. I turned it upside down and my jaw literally dropped.”
Instantly, Alemseged realized this was an extraordinary discovery that could make scientific history.
“Right away I could tell this is a child of a human ancestor,” says the paleoanthropologist. “You have this child in a block of sandstone, with the baby teeth still visible, very vertical forehead, small canine,” he adds. “But it’s so rare and so unbelievable that I just couldn’t accept that was the case, that what I saw was the skeleton.”
Yet Alemseged did not want to make news of his discovery public until he had a more complete picture of what he’d unearthed. So he kept it quiet as he meticulously prepared and analyzed the fossil.
“The skeleton was encaved in a block of sandstone matrix, which is very densely compact, very inured sand, so that I had to go remove the sand grain by grain,” says Alemseged.
“So I took my time, and people advised me to employ technicians, and technicians can do that job, but I said ‘no, it’s going to take as long as it takes but I’m not going to delegate this work of the exploration of this unique child to anyone else but me.’”

Alemseged then spent years in the lab painstakingly picking away the sand grain by grain. By using a super microscope, he was able to see details in the teeth embedded in the skull that revealed to him the skeleton’s age and the sex. He now knew the fossil was that of a three-year-old girl who had died 3.3 million years ago.

Finally, after more than six long years, Alemseged was ready to present to the world “Selam,” the fossil known as “the world’s oldest child.”
“When the time came to go to the press conference,” remembers Alemseged, “it was like a woman is pregnant and she is holding that baby for nine months and when the baby comes out, what happens is — in spite of the pain, in spite of the long, tedious process of carrying the baby — you see her smiling, you see her beautiful wonderful face trying to share the baby with her husband or the doctor.
“So I shared my baby with the audience but the different thing is that I was sharing a child that belonged not only to me but to humanity, to seven billion individuals.”
That press conference in 2006 turned Alemseged, who was just 31 when he’d discovered Selam, into a hero in the world of science.
Over the next few years, his work took him all over the world, winning him international admiration for his achievements. Today Alemseged is the director of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, a multifaceted scientific institution and museum where he combines his scientific research with his passion for public education.

Skeletal remains of “Selam,” a three-year-old girl who died 3.3 million years ago. She is the earliest skeleton of an African child ever found.

“When I got involved in this type of research I decided to not only read what has already been discovered but also to make my own discoveries and I can proudly say that I have achieved that with the discovery of Selam and many other fossils,” he says. “Those finds are finds that change textbooks, literally, so I am happy but I’m not satisfied — I will be satisfied only if I could instill the same type of psychology, the same type of excitement, the same type of passion to the next generations of Africans.”
Alemseged, a father of two, enjoys the opportunity to share his findings with the world and possibly inspire a new generation of scientists.
In recent years, he’s teamed up with other scientists from his continent to create the East African Association for Paleoanthropology, a group holding regular conferences to bring together top scientists and researchers from the region and beyond.
And while his achievements have made him a success story that young Ethiopians can aspire to, Alemseged’s efforts to create a positive impact on young Africans are just a small step toward his ultimate goals.
“I think both my family and Ethiopia are proud of me, but I still think that I still have so much to offer, not just to Ethiopia, but to Africa and to humanity in general,” he says.
“My work is beyond nations, beyond nationalities, beyond continents — it unites everyone on the planet. So when I achieve that, I’m sure Ethiopia and my family are or will be proud of me and I thank them for all of the opportunities they have provided me with also.”
By: Earl Nurse
Zoom Info
diasporicroots:

How Ethiopian Scientist Unearth 3.3-Million-Year-Old Child
 It was another December afternoon back in 2000, spent like hundreds of others combing the rocky hills of the Dikika region, when Ethiopian scientist Zeray Alemseged heard one of his assistants nearby calling him.
“He said ‘oh, doctor I see something there,’” recalls Alemseged, who’d been excavating the hot and dry landscape for over a year, helped only by a small inexperienced crew of locals. “And I went there and I see the cheek bone part … sticking out of the rock. I turned it upside down and my jaw literally dropped.”
Instantly, Alemseged realized this was an extraordinary discovery that could make scientific history.
“Right away I could tell this is a child of a human ancestor,” says the paleoanthropologist. “You have this child in a block of sandstone, with the baby teeth still visible, very vertical forehead, small canine,” he adds. “But it’s so rare and so unbelievable that I just couldn’t accept that was the case, that what I saw was the skeleton.”
Yet Alemseged did not want to make news of his discovery public until he had a more complete picture of what he’d unearthed. So he kept it quiet as he meticulously prepared and analyzed the fossil.
“The skeleton was encaved in a block of sandstone matrix, which is very densely compact, very inured sand, so that I had to go remove the sand grain by grain,” says Alemseged.
“So I took my time, and people advised me to employ technicians, and technicians can do that job, but I said ‘no, it’s going to take as long as it takes but I’m not going to delegate this work of the exploration of this unique child to anyone else but me.’”

Alemseged then spent years in the lab painstakingly picking away the sand grain by grain. By using a super microscope, he was able to see details in the teeth embedded in the skull that revealed to him the skeleton’s age and the sex. He now knew the fossil was that of a three-year-old girl who had died 3.3 million years ago.

Finally, after more than six long years, Alemseged was ready to present to the world “Selam,” the fossil known as “the world’s oldest child.”
“When the time came to go to the press conference,” remembers Alemseged, “it was like a woman is pregnant and she is holding that baby for nine months and when the baby comes out, what happens is — in spite of the pain, in spite of the long, tedious process of carrying the baby — you see her smiling, you see her beautiful wonderful face trying to share the baby with her husband or the doctor.
“So I shared my baby with the audience but the different thing is that I was sharing a child that belonged not only to me but to humanity, to seven billion individuals.”
That press conference in 2006 turned Alemseged, who was just 31 when he’d discovered Selam, into a hero in the world of science.
Over the next few years, his work took him all over the world, winning him international admiration for his achievements. Today Alemseged is the director of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, a multifaceted scientific institution and museum where he combines his scientific research with his passion for public education.

Skeletal remains of “Selam,” a three-year-old girl who died 3.3 million years ago. She is the earliest skeleton of an African child ever found.

“When I got involved in this type of research I decided to not only read what has already been discovered but also to make my own discoveries and I can proudly say that I have achieved that with the discovery of Selam and many other fossils,” he says. “Those finds are finds that change textbooks, literally, so I am happy but I’m not satisfied — I will be satisfied only if I could instill the same type of psychology, the same type of excitement, the same type of passion to the next generations of Africans.”
Alemseged, a father of two, enjoys the opportunity to share his findings with the world and possibly inspire a new generation of scientists.
In recent years, he’s teamed up with other scientists from his continent to create the East African Association for Paleoanthropology, a group holding regular conferences to bring together top scientists and researchers from the region and beyond.
And while his achievements have made him a success story that young Ethiopians can aspire to, Alemseged’s efforts to create a positive impact on young Africans are just a small step toward his ultimate goals.
“I think both my family and Ethiopia are proud of me, but I still think that I still have so much to offer, not just to Ethiopia, but to Africa and to humanity in general,” he says.
“My work is beyond nations, beyond nationalities, beyond continents — it unites everyone on the planet. So when I achieve that, I’m sure Ethiopia and my family are or will be proud of me and I thank them for all of the opportunities they have provided me with also.”
By: Earl Nurse
Zoom Info

diasporicroots:

How Ethiopian Scientist Unearth 3.3-Million-Year-Old Child

 It was another December afternoon back in 2000, spent like hundreds of others combing the rocky hills of the Dikika region, when Ethiopian scientist Zeray Alemseged heard one of his assistants nearby calling him.

“He said ‘oh, doctor I see something there,’” recalls Alemseged, who’d been excavating the hot and dry landscape for over a year, helped only by a small inexperienced crew of locals. “And I went there and I see the cheek bone part … sticking out of the rock. I turned it upside down and my jaw literally dropped.”

Instantly, Alemseged realized this was an extraordinary discovery that could make scientific history.

“Right away I could tell this is a child of a human ancestor,” says the paleoanthropologist. “You have this child in a block of sandstone, with the baby teeth still visible, very vertical forehead, small canine,” he adds. “But it’s so rare and so unbelievable that I just couldn’t accept that was the case, that what I saw was the skeleton.”

Yet Alemseged did not want to make news of his discovery public until he had a more complete picture of what he’d unearthed. So he kept it quiet as he meticulously prepared and analyzed the fossil.

“The skeleton was encaved in a block of sandstone matrix, which is very densely compact, very inured sand, so that I had to go remove the sand grain by grain,” says Alemseged.

“So I took my time, and people advised me to employ technicians, and technicians can do that job, but I said ‘no, it’s going to take as long as it takes but I’m not going to delegate this work of the exploration of this unique child to anyone else but me.’”

Alemseged then spent years in the lab painstakingly picking away the sand grain by grain. By using a super microscope, he was able to see details in the teeth embedded in the skull that revealed to him the skeleton’s age and the sex. He now knew the fossil was that of a three-year-old girl who had died 3.3 million years ago.

Finally, after more than six long years, Alemseged was ready to present to the world “Selam,” the fossil known as “the world’s oldest child.”

“When the time came to go to the press conference,” remembers Alemseged, “it was like a woman is pregnant and she is holding that baby for nine months and when the baby comes out, what happens is — in spite of the pain, in spite of the long, tedious process of carrying the baby — you see her smiling, you see her beautiful wonderful face trying to share the baby with her husband or the doctor.

“So I shared my baby with the audience but the different thing is that I was sharing a child that belonged not only to me but to humanity, to seven billion individuals.”

That press conference in 2006 turned Alemseged, who was just 31 when he’d discovered Selam, into a hero in the world of science.

Over the next few years, his work took him all over the world, winning him international admiration for his achievements. Today Alemseged is the director of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, a multifaceted scientific institution and museum where he combines his scientific research with his passion for public education.

Skeletal remains of “Selam,” a three-year-old girl who died 3.3 million years ago. She is the earliest skeleton of an African child ever found.

“When I got involved in this type of research I decided to not only read what has already been discovered but also to make my own discoveries and I can proudly say that I have achieved that with the discovery of Selam and many other fossils,” he says. “Those finds are finds that change textbooks, literally, so I am happy but I’m not satisfied — I will be satisfied only if I could instill the same type of psychology, the same type of excitement, the same type of passion to the next generations of Africans.”

Alemseged, a father of two, enjoys the opportunity to share his findings with the world and possibly inspire a new generation of scientists.

In recent years, he’s teamed up with other scientists from his continent to create the East African Association for Paleoanthropology, a group holding regular conferences to bring together top scientists and researchers from the region and beyond.

And while his achievements have made him a success story that young Ethiopians can aspire to, Alemseged’s efforts to create a positive impact on young Africans are just a small step toward his ultimate goals.

“I think both my family and Ethiopia are proud of me, but I still think that I still have so much to offer, not just to Ethiopia, but to Africa and to humanity in general,” he says.

“My work is beyond nations, beyond nationalities, beyond continents — it unites everyone on the planet. So when I achieve that, I’m sure Ethiopia and my family are or will be proud of me and I thank them for all of the opportunities they have provided me with also.”

By: Earl Nurse

ladyfresh:

The Woman in a Jim Crow Photo By MAURICE BERGER
When Joanne Wilson stepped out to enjoy a balmy summer afternoon with her niece in 1956, she stepped into history. The two stood in front of a movie theater in downtown Mobile, Ala., dressed in their Sunday best. But the neon sign that loomed overhead — “Colored Entrance” — cast a despairing shadow.
“I wasn’t going in,” Mrs. Wilson recalled. “I didn’t want to take my niece through the back entrance. She smelled popcorn and wanted some. All I could think was where I could go to get her popcorn.”
That moment was captured by Gordon Parks, who was working on a Life photo essay that documented everyday life among an extended African-American family in the rural South. Although it was not among the final selections published in September 1956 as “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” the photograph of Mrs. Wilson and her niece, Shirley Diane Kirksey, is among the most compelling of the project.
We usually associate civil rights photography with dramatic scenes of historic events. But this image helps us to understand that the battle for racial equality and justice was waged not just through epic demonstrations, speeches and conflagrations, but also through the quiet actions of individuals.
 More than half a century later, the Gordon Parks Foundation honored Mrs. Wilson with a gift of that color print during its celebrity-filled annual awards dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Speaking in a lilting but strong voice, Mrs. Wilson recounted on Tuesday night what it was like to encounter and work with Mr. Parks — how comfortable he made her feel and her need to teach him, the Northerner, “the things we could do and the things we could not do” under the watchful eyes of segregationists.
White supremacists understood the power of the camera to expose their violent prejudices and turn the nation against them. As Mr. Parks recalled later, the risk of retaliation for participating in the Life story was great, both for the photographer and for his subjects. But neither he nor Mrs. Wilson would be intimidated.
 Gordon Parks, courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation A black classroom in Shady Grove, Ala., 1956. “My family saw the photo essay as an opportunity to advance the cause of civil rights,” said Michael Wilson, Mrs. Wilson’s son and the family historian. “These pictures were going to be published in a national magazine. People across the country would clearly see the problem. They could see our plight. Maybe then we could get help.”
Despite the poverty and racial enmity all around her, Mrs. Wilson endeavored to make life for her family as normal as possible. In 1956, she married Troy Wilson, a longshoreman. They had two children. After receiving her college degree, she taught American government and economics for 36 years at Mattie T. Blount High School, which served a predominantly black and low-income community in Prichard, Ala.
Like her father, Albert Thornton Sr., she believed in the power of education to uplift African-Americans and prepare them to overcome racism and segregation. Each year, she organized a bake sale to finance a trip to Atlanta for her female students and introduce them to the city’s historically black colleges.
Mrs. Wilson, who was not featured in the final photo essay, survived its publication relatively unscathed. Her sister and brother in-law, Allie Lee Causey and Willie Causey, were less fortunate. Mrs. Causey, a teacher in a ramshackle one-room schoolhouse in Shady Grove, Ala., was quoted in the piece as advocating integration as “the only way through which Negroes will receive justice.” One of the most outspoken members of the Thornton family, she helped to organize voter drives and teach community members the Bill of Rights, the recital of which from memory was a prerequisite for African-Americans to vote in many Southern states.
As Life later reported, Mrs. Causey’s candor and activism infuriated white supremacists, who taunted the couple about their participation in the photo essay. Service stations refused to sell gas to Mr. Causey, a woodcutter and farmer. He was soon accused of owing money on his truck, which was seized by alleged creditors. Without it, he was unable to work. Two weeks after the photo essay was published, Mrs. Causey was fired from her teaching job. Unable to make a living and fearing for their safety, the couple moved out of Alabama.
Mrs. Causey, who died in 2006, never taught again.
Despite these setbacks, the family had no misgivings about appearing in the piece. “Everyone was very impressed with the article,” Mr. Wilson said. “They felt that they had made a friend. Gordon had become part of the family.” After the essay was published, Mr. Parks would periodically check in with Mrs. Wilson’s parents.
Mrs. Wilson’s only quibble with the photograph of her and her niece was that Mr. Parks did not tell her the strap of her slip had fallen. “I always wanted to look neat and nice,” she said. “I did not want to be mistaken for a servant. Dressing well made me feel first class. I wanted to set an example.”
But Mr. Parks may have had a reason for the oversight: a desire to stress the human side of an image that, in its refinement and flair, could at first be mistaken for one of his fashion photographs. In this context, Mrs. Wilson was not just challenging racism and stereotypes through meticulous self-presentation. She was also going about her daily life, like millions of women, black and white — tending to the needs of an energetic young child, but in a hostile environment.
The price she paid for meeting this responsibility, as anyone who has cared for a child knows, was the distraction that made her overlook the fallen strap. Yet, it is this poignant detail that helps us to identify with her. And it is this appeal to empathy, a central goal of Mr. Parks’s civil rights work, that helped him to challenge racism’s abiding myth: that we are fundamentally different.
The decision of the Gordon Parks Foundation to honor Mrs. Wilson challenges another misconception: that history is principally the domain of the famous and powerful. As the Life photo essay shows, history is also made through the daily, unheralded acts of ordinary people. What we see in Mr. Parks’s image is a determined and self-possessed woman, challenging stereotypes and fortifying herself against the poisonous tide of oppression that threatened to engulf her and her family.
Mrs. Wilson’s humanity was under assault, and she chose, in her own way, to fight back. Fifty-seven years later, that moment is potent proof that even the smallest gesture, seen through the right eyes, can change the world.
Zoom Info
ladyfresh:

The Woman in a Jim Crow Photo By MAURICE BERGER
When Joanne Wilson stepped out to enjoy a balmy summer afternoon with her niece in 1956, she stepped into history. The two stood in front of a movie theater in downtown Mobile, Ala., dressed in their Sunday best. But the neon sign that loomed overhead — “Colored Entrance” — cast a despairing shadow.
“I wasn’t going in,” Mrs. Wilson recalled. “I didn’t want to take my niece through the back entrance. She smelled popcorn and wanted some. All I could think was where I could go to get her popcorn.”
That moment was captured by Gordon Parks, who was working on a Life photo essay that documented everyday life among an extended African-American family in the rural South. Although it was not among the final selections published in September 1956 as “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” the photograph of Mrs. Wilson and her niece, Shirley Diane Kirksey, is among the most compelling of the project.
We usually associate civil rights photography with dramatic scenes of historic events. But this image helps us to understand that the battle for racial equality and justice was waged not just through epic demonstrations, speeches and conflagrations, but also through the quiet actions of individuals.
 More than half a century later, the Gordon Parks Foundation honored Mrs. Wilson with a gift of that color print during its celebrity-filled annual awards dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Speaking in a lilting but strong voice, Mrs. Wilson recounted on Tuesday night what it was like to encounter and work with Mr. Parks — how comfortable he made her feel and her need to teach him, the Northerner, “the things we could do and the things we could not do” under the watchful eyes of segregationists.
White supremacists understood the power of the camera to expose their violent prejudices and turn the nation against them. As Mr. Parks recalled later, the risk of retaliation for participating in the Life story was great, both for the photographer and for his subjects. But neither he nor Mrs. Wilson would be intimidated.
 Gordon Parks, courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation A black classroom in Shady Grove, Ala., 1956. “My family saw the photo essay as an opportunity to advance the cause of civil rights,” said Michael Wilson, Mrs. Wilson’s son and the family historian. “These pictures were going to be published in a national magazine. People across the country would clearly see the problem. They could see our plight. Maybe then we could get help.”
Despite the poverty and racial enmity all around her, Mrs. Wilson endeavored to make life for her family as normal as possible. In 1956, she married Troy Wilson, a longshoreman. They had two children. After receiving her college degree, she taught American government and economics for 36 years at Mattie T. Blount High School, which served a predominantly black and low-income community in Prichard, Ala.
Like her father, Albert Thornton Sr., she believed in the power of education to uplift African-Americans and prepare them to overcome racism and segregation. Each year, she organized a bake sale to finance a trip to Atlanta for her female students and introduce them to the city’s historically black colleges.
Mrs. Wilson, who was not featured in the final photo essay, survived its publication relatively unscathed. Her sister and brother in-law, Allie Lee Causey and Willie Causey, were less fortunate. Mrs. Causey, a teacher in a ramshackle one-room schoolhouse in Shady Grove, Ala., was quoted in the piece as advocating integration as “the only way through which Negroes will receive justice.” One of the most outspoken members of the Thornton family, she helped to organize voter drives and teach community members the Bill of Rights, the recital of which from memory was a prerequisite for African-Americans to vote in many Southern states.
As Life later reported, Mrs. Causey’s candor and activism infuriated white supremacists, who taunted the couple about their participation in the photo essay. Service stations refused to sell gas to Mr. Causey, a woodcutter and farmer. He was soon accused of owing money on his truck, which was seized by alleged creditors. Without it, he was unable to work. Two weeks after the photo essay was published, Mrs. Causey was fired from her teaching job. Unable to make a living and fearing for their safety, the couple moved out of Alabama.
Mrs. Causey, who died in 2006, never taught again.
Despite these setbacks, the family had no misgivings about appearing in the piece. “Everyone was very impressed with the article,” Mr. Wilson said. “They felt that they had made a friend. Gordon had become part of the family.” After the essay was published, Mr. Parks would periodically check in with Mrs. Wilson’s parents.
Mrs. Wilson’s only quibble with the photograph of her and her niece was that Mr. Parks did not tell her the strap of her slip had fallen. “I always wanted to look neat and nice,” she said. “I did not want to be mistaken for a servant. Dressing well made me feel first class. I wanted to set an example.”
But Mr. Parks may have had a reason for the oversight: a desire to stress the human side of an image that, in its refinement and flair, could at first be mistaken for one of his fashion photographs. In this context, Mrs. Wilson was not just challenging racism and stereotypes through meticulous self-presentation. She was also going about her daily life, like millions of women, black and white — tending to the needs of an energetic young child, but in a hostile environment.
The price she paid for meeting this responsibility, as anyone who has cared for a child knows, was the distraction that made her overlook the fallen strap. Yet, it is this poignant detail that helps us to identify with her. And it is this appeal to empathy, a central goal of Mr. Parks’s civil rights work, that helped him to challenge racism’s abiding myth: that we are fundamentally different.
The decision of the Gordon Parks Foundation to honor Mrs. Wilson challenges another misconception: that history is principally the domain of the famous and powerful. As the Life photo essay shows, history is also made through the daily, unheralded acts of ordinary people. What we see in Mr. Parks’s image is a determined and self-possessed woman, challenging stereotypes and fortifying herself against the poisonous tide of oppression that threatened to engulf her and her family.
Mrs. Wilson’s humanity was under assault, and she chose, in her own way, to fight back. Fifty-seven years later, that moment is potent proof that even the smallest gesture, seen through the right eyes, can change the world.
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The Woman in a Jim Crow Photo
By MAURICE BERGER

When Joanne Wilson stepped out to enjoy a balmy summer afternoon with her niece in 1956, she stepped into history. The two stood in front of a movie theater in downtown Mobile, Ala., dressed in their Sunday best. But the neon sign that loomed overhead — “Colored Entrance” — cast a despairing shadow.

“I wasn’t going in,” Mrs. Wilson recalled. “I didn’t want to take my niece through the back entrance. She smelled popcorn and wanted some. All I could think was where I could go to get her popcorn.”

That moment was captured by Gordon Parks, who was working on a Life photo essay that documented everyday life among an extended African-American family in the rural South. Although it was not among the final selections published in September 1956 as “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” the photograph of Mrs. Wilson and her niece, Shirley Diane Kirksey, is among the most compelling of the project.

We usually associate civil rights photography with dramatic scenes of historic events. But this image helps us to understand that the battle for racial equality and justice was waged not just through epic demonstrations, speeches and conflagrations, but also through the quiet actions of individuals.


More than half a century later, the Gordon Parks Foundation honored Mrs. Wilson with a gift of that color print during its celebrity-filled annual awards dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Speaking in a lilting but strong voice, Mrs. Wilson recounted on Tuesday night what it was like to encounter and work with Mr. Parks — how comfortable he made her feel and her need to teach him, the Northerner, “the things we could do and the things we could not do” under the watchful eyes of segregationists.

White supremacists understood the power of the camera to expose their violent prejudices and turn the nation against them. As Mr. Parks recalled later, the risk of retaliation for participating in the Life story was great, both for the photographer and for his subjects. But neither he nor Mrs. Wilson would be intimidated.


Gordon Parks, courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation
A black classroom in Shady Grove, Ala., 1956.
“My family saw the photo essay as an opportunity to advance the cause of civil rights,” said Michael Wilson, Mrs. Wilson’s son and the family historian. “These pictures were going to be published in a national magazine. People across the country would clearly see the problem. They could see our plight. Maybe then we could get help.”

Despite the poverty and racial enmity all around her, Mrs. Wilson endeavored to make life for her family as normal as possible. In 1956, she married Troy Wilson, a longshoreman. They had two children. After receiving her college degree, she taught American government and economics for 36 years at Mattie T. Blount High School, which served a predominantly black and low-income community in Prichard, Ala.

Like her father, Albert Thornton Sr., she believed in the power of education to uplift African-Americans and prepare them to overcome racism and segregation. Each year, she organized a bake sale to finance a trip to Atlanta for her female students and introduce them to the city’s historically black colleges.

Mrs. Wilson, who was not featured in the final photo essay, survived its publication relatively unscathed. Her sister and brother in-law, Allie Lee Causey and Willie Causey, were less fortunate. Mrs. Causey, a teacher in a ramshackle one-room schoolhouse in Shady Grove, Ala., was quoted in the piece as advocating integration as “the only way through which Negroes will receive justice.” One of the most outspoken members of the Thornton family, she helped to organize voter drives and teach community members the Bill of Rights, the recital of which from memory was a prerequisite for African-Americans to vote in many Southern states.

As Life later reported, Mrs. Causey’s candor and activism infuriated white supremacists, who taunted the couple about their participation in the photo essay. Service stations refused to sell gas to Mr. Causey, a woodcutter and farmer. He was soon accused of owing money on his truck, which was seized by alleged creditors. Without it, he was unable to work. Two weeks after the photo essay was published, Mrs. Causey was fired from her teaching job. Unable to make a living and fearing for their safety, the couple moved out of Alabama.

Mrs. Causey, who died in 2006, never taught again.

Despite these setbacks, the family had no misgivings about appearing in the piece. “Everyone was very impressed with the article,” Mr. Wilson said. “They felt that they had made a friend. Gordon had become part of the family.” After the essay was published, Mr. Parks would periodically check in with Mrs. Wilson’s parents.

Mrs. Wilson’s only quibble with the photograph of her and her niece was that Mr. Parks did not tell her the strap of her slip had fallen. “I always wanted to look neat and nice,” she said. “I did not want to be mistaken for a servant. Dressing well made me feel first class. I wanted to set an example.”

But Mr. Parks may have had a reason for the oversight: a desire to stress the human side of an image that, in its refinement and flair, could at first be mistaken for one of his fashion photographs. In this context, Mrs. Wilson was not just challenging racism and stereotypes through meticulous self-presentation. She was also going about her daily life, like millions of women, black and white — tending to the needs of an energetic young child, but in a hostile environment.

The price she paid for meeting this responsibility, as anyone who has cared for a child knows, was the distraction that made her overlook the fallen strap. Yet, it is this poignant detail that helps us to identify with her. And it is this appeal to empathy, a central goal of Mr. Parks’s civil rights work, that helped him to challenge racism’s abiding myth: that we are fundamentally different.

The decision of the Gordon Parks Foundation to honor Mrs. Wilson challenges another misconception: that history is principally the domain of the famous and powerful. As the Life photo essay shows, history is also made through the daily, unheralded acts of ordinary people. What we see in Mr. Parks’s image is a determined and self-possessed woman, challenging stereotypes and fortifying herself against the poisonous tide of oppression that threatened to engulf her and her family.

Mrs. Wilson’s humanity was under assault, and she chose, in her own way, to fight back. Fifty-seven years later, that moment is potent proof that even the smallest gesture, seen through the right eyes, can change the world.