For many years, Norman Rockwell painted sweet, nostalgic covers for The Saturday Evening Post. However, as he later recalled,
it was the magazine’s policy to show African-Americans in service industry jobs only.
With the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the birth of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Rockwell’s career changed course. He left the Post and went to work for Look magazine. His illustrations then took on the social issues of the day, which included the Peace Corps and the Vietnam War. His first assignment was to depict a 6-year-old African-American girl being escorted to desegregate an all-white school in the South.
Perhaps his most dramatic cover was “Murder in Mississippi,” which portrayed the June 21,1964, murder of three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss. This almost-life-size work was on display at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento last year and it was a pleasure to see this new range of paintings and the lines of people who waited patiently to view his art.
Rockwell was a man of his times appropriately reflecting the changing American landscape.