Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reminiscences: The Reporter- Part 2: 1949



In this previous post I wrote of how a small collection of the long-defunct magazine The Reporter had come into my possession. I said that I would soon be posting more about it, and I have yet to do so. This has been nagging at me and preventing me from concentrating on other interests. If there is one thing I hate, it’s people who say they are going to do something and then fail to do it. I say this knowing full-well that there is nobody out there tapping his foot while he impatiently waits for my next post on The Reporter. That doesn't help.

It is also true that I don’t feel much like writing about The Reporter right now. My heart isn’t in it. I’m currently into poetry and sick of politics. Looking through these old magazines, heavily weighted with Cold War, Red Scare, and pre-Civil Rights politics as they are, does not much appeal to me. But, do it I must, since I have said that I would.

The cover story of the earliest issue of the magazine in the collection is presented by a cartoonist’s depiction of the Alger Hiss trial. The listing of the article in the table of contents goes like this: The Case of Alger Hiss: Perjury and the defendant have little to do with it; to the public the ghosts of the New Deal are on trial. Hmm. Plus ça change, eh?

The issue is from 1949, the first year of the magazine’s publication. This is not, however, the premiere issue; it is Volume 1, No. 10. In featuring graphic cover art with topical themes, rather than photographs, the magazine is reminiscent of The New Yorker. It also reminds me of another defunct periodical to which I was once a subscriber: the Saturday Review.

The collection of the magazine that I've acquired is not comprehensive. It includes only those issues of the mag in which articles—mostly book reviews, I think—by the scholar and critic, Sidney Alexander, appear. The one in this issue is “G.I.’s and Giottos”—an article about the “four hundred American veterans studying in Italy under the G.I. Bill,” fifty of whom Alexander has discovered to be in Florence.

One interesting paragraph, which seems to be typical of the magazine’s focus, begins with this sentence: “Among the veterans, Negroes form a special group of what I would call American Displaced Persons. Many of them have been here now for more than five years—in suntans and in mufti.” He quotes one Black expatriot: “When am I going home?...Never, I hope. …First time in my life I’ve been treated like a human being. Nobody here cares about the color of my skin. I’m married to an Italian girl. In Italy we can live anywhere we want if we have the money. Why should I go back to Jim Crow and colored slums?”

The same issue contains a full article, written by an African American woman: From Where I Stand: A Negro housewife looks back on a good (and bad) life. This article is presented under the heading “Inside America”. The author’s name is Alyce McComb. It is a reminiscence of growing up Black in the north: “While growing up, we kids learned to work with what we had, in the virtual paradise back of the railway yards in Chicago where God had seen fit to place us. In those days two dollars a day supported a family of five in pretty good style.” It would seem that The Reporter strived to be fair and balanced.

There is an article about Adlai Stevenson’s first year as governor of Illinois. Another is entitled, A Vote for Academic Freedom: A college president says that in choosing teachers the universities can and should govern themselves. One of the conspicuously Cold War-oriented pieces is, Tito is Not for Sale: Yugoslavia’s Communist-in-Chief, who would not bow to Stalin, will not be easy for the West to handle. There is also an article about the great and famous cellist, Pablo Casals, who at that time was conducting a boycott: “Please state very clearly,” said Pablo Casals, “that I love the Americans and I love the British. I once had faith in their governments, but I have been deceived. It would not be dignified to go to those countries and earn money under such circumstances.” ...“I merely cannot accept the fact that the American and British governments have relations with such a man as Franco. It is not dignified.”

You gotta love those artists (and hate those poltiticians.)

There: I’ve done my duty. I’ll close with one of this issue's Cold War cartoons:

I forgot to mention that the "A-Bomb" was also an obsession in those years, and for long after.