Here, in striking color photographs that, at times, convey an unsettling intimacy, Bourke-White’s work opens a window on an era that, for better and for worse, helped define 20th century America. There is courage to be found here, and dignity and a cruelty that — in the guise of a patronizing benevolence — shaped the destinies of black and white America for decades, and still echoes in our national conversation today.
The “Voices of the White South” article, which won praise and awards when published, was extraordinary for, among other things, the utterly non-sensational methodology and tone of its reportage. While much of the national debate over desegregation was dominated in the mid-1950s by the language and actions of strident and often hateful zealots, “Voices” was a measured take on the entire issue. Far from emphasizing its own pro-integrationist sensibility, LIFE allowed Southerners to discuss their own pro-segregationist views — in their own words, at length — and created a portrait of the South far more nuanced than the depiction usually found in the liberal “Yankee” press. The article was not, in the end, an anti-segregationist screed, but instead an honest glimpse into the heart of a culture proud of its utterly fraught heritage, and terrified of what the future might hold.
References : www.life.time.com