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National Geographic hires university professor to examine its own past issues for racism

Issued: 2018-03-17

Next month’s issue of National Geographic will be dedicated to race, but before the magazine could broach the topic, it decided to first take a look at its own publication.

“It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine’s past. But when we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others,” Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg wrote in the issue’s editor’s letter.

Goldberg asked professor John Edwin Mason, who teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, to dive into the magazine’s 130-year archive.

“What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile, it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché,” Goldberg wrote.

“National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture,” Mason told Goldberg. – READ MORE

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