Afterword: Contemporary Turns

Elizabeth Abel

in Signs of the Times

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780520261174
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945869 | DOI:
Afterword: Contemporary Turns

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Even after his legal demise, rumors of Jim Crow's death were greatly exaggerated. This did not dissuade photographers from documenting the public dismantling of Jim Crow signs in the aftermath of legislation banning their display. In the years bracketing the turn of the century, with the explicit sanction of the George W. Bush administration, the discourse of color blindness was cynically adopted to legitimate dismantling programs to redress the enduring legacy of racial segregation. In a pointed challenge to the claim that color blindness represents a current reality rather than a future dream, segregation signs have been redisplayed to protest the rolling back of the affirmative action policies that were implemented to redress segregation's effects. The 1998 film Pleasantville presents a monitory example of the ways that an increasingly blurred memory of Jim Crow can be recruited to translate harsh racial divisions into multicultural harmony. This afterword considers the repurposing of Jim Crow signs by activists and artists who seek to turn their discriminatory uses to progressive aims.

Keywords: Jim Crow signs; color blindness; racial segregation; affirmative action; Pleasantville; activists; artists; photographers; legislation

Chapter.  3121 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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