|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.
It is November 2, 1930, and National Geographic has sent a reporter and a photographer to cover a magnificent occasion: the crowning of Haile Selassie, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. There are trumpets, incense, priests, spear-wielding warriors. The story runs 14,000 words, with 83 images.
If a ceremony in 1930 honoring a black man had taken place in America, instead of Ethiopia, you can pretty much guarantee there wouldn’t have been a story at all. Even worse, if Haile Selassie had lived in the United States, he would almost certainly have been denied entry to our lectures in segregated Washington, D.C., and he might not have been allowed to be a National Geographic member. According to Robert M. Poole, who wrote Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made, “African Americans were excluded from membership—at least in Washington—through the 1940s.”
|How we present race matters.
For 130 years, our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.
April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a worthy moment to step back, to take stock of where we are on race. It’s also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white. So let’s talk about what’s working when it comes to race, and what isn’t.
We hope you will join us in this exploration of race, beginning with this issue and continuing throughout the year. Sometimes these stories, like parts of our own history, are not easy to read. But as Michele Norris writes in this issue, “It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.”
Take a look at some of the stories we cover in this issue. And when you subscribe today, you’ll get 12 monthly issues, including April’s special issue, “Black and White,” for only $12.00.
|To rise above the racism of the past, we must acknowledge it.
– Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief.
Some of our archives leave you speechless.
In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in 1916, aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”
|People are made how they are.
From the cover: “Black and White”
These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race.
Millie and Marcia are fraternal twins and best friends. The fact that one is black and the other is white has never been an issue for them.
“When people see us, they think that we’re just best friends,” Marcia says. “When they learn that we’re twins, they’re kind of shocked because one’s black and one’s white.”
Their mother calls them her “one in a million” miracle. But it’s not that rare that a biracial couple would have fraternal twins who each look more like one parent than the other, says statistical geneticist Alicia Martin. The probability would be different for each couple, depending on their genetics, says Martin, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What are the odds? Subscribe today to get the full story.
|I don’t think, in this country, breaking down on the side of the road should be a death sentence for anyone…
– Anquan Boldin, NFL wide receiver
Drivers of all races worry about running afoul of the rules of the road. But blacks and Hispanics, in particular, also worry about being stopped if they are driving a nice car in a modest or upscale community, a raggedy car in a mostly white one, or any kind of car in a high-crime area. It affects everyone, from ministers and professional athletes to lawyers and the super-rich.
In 2015 black American motorists were more likely to be stopped, searched, and arrested than white drivers, even though they were no more likely to be carrying contraband.
From “The Stop”
In Florida, former pro football player Anquan Boldin and his cousin C.J. Jones stand near the spot where Jones’s brother, Cory, was fatally shot by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.
See more stories of “the stop” when you subscribe today.
|When the name of a place is changed, it’s also a sign of power and influence— it reflects who is in charge and who has made an impression on the culture.
From Memphis to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Germany, South Africa to Kolkata, more than a thousand streets across the world bear Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name. Fifty years after his death, how do these roads reflect the civil rights icon’s values and teachings?
From “Streets in His Name”
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, vendors gather on the Avenue Martin Luther King.