Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

National Geographic’s past exposed

As I was reading the news today, I came across an article with a disturbing title. “A probe into the past exposes National Geographic’s racist content.” A study done by a history professor at the University of Virginia discovered the racist behavior in National Geographic’s past.  As I continued to read, the author gave examples of some of the evidence the study unearthed. “A 1916 edition, for example, featured two Aboriginal people with a caption that read, ‘South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings'” (Dzhanova). We recently learned about Aboriginal people and how they were regarded as “children of the forest” and viewed as a wild people, and being considered “savages.” This also goes back to the beginning of the class when we learned about how early scientists attempted to use race to determine intelligence or social capacity and to distinguish which races were “superior.”  National Geographic’s use of stereotypes and their tendency to portray people of color as laborers has given their once impeccable name a permanent mark. As this information comes to light, and in an attempt to make up for the century of discrimination, each issue of National Geographic this year will be part of a series on racial, ethnic and religious groups, this time portraying them correctly.



  1. mcnealc

    This reminds me of the concept of the pristine myth, that I learned in a Latin American History class. History is so many times told that white europeans came in and encountered uncivilized peoples who did not know how to use the land and thus it looked pristine and untouched. It is clear that native peoples were not just people of the forest and wild like you said, they set up communities, and systems and knew how to use the land well.

  2. brodeenk

    I found this article that you found fascinating and so relevant to what we learned about in class with the early forms of race classification. I’m also glad that National Geographic is trying to correct their faulty history and trying to depict race and ethnicity correctly. I look forward to seeing what essays and articles they publish regarding the topic.

  3. Lauren

    I really like your post. I believe that the use of stereotypes in popular forms of media greatly contributes to modern-day racism. However, I am glad that popular media forms such as National Geographic are trying to correct their past mistakes and are trying to use their power to make things right. Correct portrayals are important in attempting to create a just and equal society.

  4. heronca

    It’s interesting to see how much of a racist past the field of science has. To think about how many things scientists “got away with” or passed off as research, when it was really cruel experiments or biased data gathered, is really disheartening.

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