Posted by: mimihuckins | December 9, 2020

Disturbing postcards

CW: these postcards show photos of lynching and dead bodies

Bringing it way back to the beginning of the module, I remember someone mentioning the fact that some of the disturbing images we were looking at were made into postcards and circulated as postcards at that time. It’s true, famine photographs, lynching photographs, and other horrific events were often postcards, sent to friends with, at times, lighthearted messages.

Some reasons for the sending of these postcards are much clearer than others. Postcards from the Mexican Revolution have ambiguous messages. We cannot be sure if these postcards were sent or acquired as soveineers or as a rememberance of lives lost.

Warning: Photos of dead bodies

Title: [Dead bodies on a Mexican battlefield]
Creator: Horne, Walter H., 1883-1921
Date: 1913
Title: [Mexican man kneeling beside dead body]
Date: ca. 1910-1917

These images are disturbing, yet they are some of the least graphic postcards I saw from the Mexican Revolution. There isn’t any writing on these postcards, so it is difficult to imagine what purpose they had for the people buying and sending them. Temporality is an important force within these photographs. Now, they may be seen as important historical images. Then, people were being killed and some thought it would be nice to have a memory of it. Postcards of horrific events definitely have very racist tones. Seeing people of color suffer seems to be entertainment for the white man of the early 1900s. An example of this are lynching postcards. These postcards are at times so incredibly graphic, yet will have positive messages written on them. People would send a graphic and racist photo to their friends and say, “I was there!”

CW: hanged person and disturbing messages

“This is the barbecue we had last night my picture is to the left with a cross over it your son Joe.”” -https://cvltnation.com/nsfw-american-terrorism-lynching-postcards/

(the photo is too graphic to show.)
Printed inscription on border, “LYNCHING SCENE, DALLAS, MARCH 3, 1910”. Penciled inscription on border, “All OK and would like to get a post from you, ‘Bill.’ This was some Raw Bunch.”
Reverse of card reads “Well John–This is a token of a great day we had in Dallas…a n*gro was hung for an assault on a three year old girl I saw this on my noon hour. I was very much in the bunch.”” —https://cvltnation.com/nsfw-american-terrorism-lynching-postcards/

These postcards disgust me like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Lynching was obviously a “fun” event for white people. They would attend in huge crowds, and be proud of their attendance. This makes sense for why these photos were made into postcards. It shows how proud the people were, and how little they cared for Black lives. The second postcard describes the lynching as “a token of a great day,” which is exactly what would make sense to be written on an ordinary postcard, yet when paired with horribly graphic images of death, it is shocking and upsetting for the modern viewer. The temporality of these images is ever so emphasized when viewed in postcard form. The deaths of people of color were seen as spectacles, souvenirs, happy memories, etc. They are shocking because we would never see something like this happen today; no one would put a graphic photo depicting murder on a postcard. Yet, disturbing videos and photos are still circulated and viewed billions of times, just in different, more acceptable formats. Videos are extremely beneficial for achieving justice. If we did not have a video of George Floyd, his murder would be easier to cover up or for the public to ignore. Yet, there is something disturbing to me about the constant viewing of the murders of Black people today. There are still people with mentalities as racist and disgusting as those who sent these postcards, now viewing horrific videos of people being murdered with extremely different intentions that those who took the video. Seeing these postcards shouldn’t be so shocking, because this mentality when viewing racial violence still definitely exists. Even those whose racism is more “acceptable” today will publicly claim that someone deserved death because of a petty crime, which is a mentality that is horrifically similar to those who attended lynchings.

Works Cited

ByMeghan. “NSFW: American Terrorism… Lynching Postcards.” CVLT Nation, 7 Dec. 2014, cvltnation.com/nsfw-american-terrorism-lynching-postcards/.

Sorene, Paul. “Postcards of Dead Bodies: Grim Souvenirs From The Mexican Revolution.” Flashbak, 6 Feb. 2017, flashbak.com/postcards-of-dead-bodies-from-the-mexican-revolution-372891/.


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