January 20th, 2012
05:07 PM ET

Rare and unseen photos from South Carolina's segregated past

In the mid-1950s, LIFE magazine published a five-part series titled "The Background of Segregation," which explored how it played out in people's lives from the post-Civil War Jim Crow South to the early days of the Civil Rights movement.

On the eve of the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary, race has again been in the headlines. LIFE.com presented rare and unpublished color photos by Margaret Bourke-White, who explored South Carolina in 1956 for a story called "The Voices of the White South." The article, LIFE.com write "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, rigorously fair take on the entire issue. ... The article was not, in the end, an anti-segregationist screed, but was instead an honest glimpse into the heart of a culture at once proud of its heritage, and terrified of what the future might hold."

See the entire gallery on LIFE.com

soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. raidergary

    Yes, you white bigots say: forget the past, while we see that the state of Georgia still has segregated proms in some of it's high schools.

    December 21, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. c3vink

    ITT: a lot of people who think the crux of the issue is *race*, when really it often boils down to *culture*.

    February 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scooby

    If you live in a progressive place where racism isn't an issue, or if you are part of the upper class who aren't really a part of society, you should listen to those who experience these issues in every day life instead of commenting without basis. I am just 36 and i have been told "we dont serve your kind here". If you think racism is done, compare the maps of the obama election split and the maps of the civil war division. Notice a similarity?

    January 23, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny of Salt

      Thank you for this gentle reminder. I'm a White guy with Black friends, I've had a Black boss, and I work for a giant corporation with a Black CEO. It's too easy for me to be complacent and fell like everything's cool. I needed to remember how heartbreaking it was to see my best friend in LA silently fold up under some thoughtless comment, or to see his beautiful seven-year-old son learning to harden his expression so people wouldn't give him any cr@p.

      February 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scooby

    If you want to understand modern racism, go to any small southern town as a black man and take a walk after 8 p.m. And see how fast you meet the local police. By 9 they will know everything in your pockets and know more about you than your own family. I moved to a small sc town and was stopped walking to town at 4 pm twice in ten minutes and searced. Once by the city and once by the county. This was my fourth and fifth time being stopped walking in three weeks. I have a good record and am of mixed race. I have experienced the same throughout the small town south. Where i was raised in tn, i was stopped and searced on foot and in cars 14 times before i got my first ticket. It was for running a stop sign. 6 mos. Supervised probation and a 250 $ fine. Violated because my army training was out of state. Took 9 court dates and cussing out the judge to fix it! Land of the free now do what we say or we will prosecute

    January 23, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • c3vink

      Here is the thing: I live in Loudoun County Virginia, I am white, 35, solidly upper-middle class, and in the last 10 years have had my house raided for drugs, been searched EVERY time I've been pulled over (Over 12 times), with canines taken to my car no less than three times. Oh, and yeah...I HAVE NEVER BEEN CONVICTED OF ANY CRIME, nor have they ever found anything. Nothing at all. I think part, certainly not all because I concede the racism inherent in traffic stops, as blacks do get pulled over more than whites, but PART of the problem isn't just the way the police are treating black people, it's the way police treat EVERYONE. Our police forces are corrupt, lazy, violent, and out of control. They don't respect people's rights, think themselves above the law, and aren't afraid of the consequences of fixing situations to get the outcome they think they want. I've seen it. We need to demilitarize the police, hold them accountable for their actions, ban police union involvement, and require something a little higher than *just* a high school diploma for them to actually become cops. It may cost us a bit more in salaries, but I'm sure smarter cops could do more good than the lot we have now in places like NY, Chicago, LA, and DC. Remember, police aren't there to PREVENT OR STOP CRIME, that hardly EVER happens....police are there as a psychological deterrent, an investigative follow up mechanism to root out crime that has already occurred, and as a last resort to establish order, the once in a blue moon that chaos breaks out. Just like in New Orleans, when the chips are down you can't count on them to be any more selfless than your average street thug.

      February 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jonh Doe

    Black people are not worried anymore now the racism its againnst the hispanics.... some states are approving laws to stop hispaniscs on the streets based only on their appearance.... the land of the free!

    January 23, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. mikrik13

    This isn't 1956. Amazing that some people wish to keep racism alive in America. But, there is money to be made in facilitating hate no matter what color the instigator or how much time has passed.

    January 23, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. sabina barnes

    To answer jennifer you are correct,mix races coming together chinese and black.that is what my cousins are.mix races rock.

    January 23, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. jean

    I believe u meant mulatto, an pic speaks volumes.....but it was the past...live life

    January 23, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. p41

    Sooo...according to the racists on this post, people of color should just suck-it-up...Goodness. I have an idea of my own. Let's let let people of color (blacks, and mulatto's too), enslave caucasians (jews, catholics, baptists, etc...) for about half; no a third; no 5yrs. Then, lets see how you feel when I say, "suck it up and get a job. Forget the past, and think of the future." "By the way, there are no job's; just plenty of prisons."

    January 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • p41

      oops. Forgot to say, "and we don't want you in our school's, neighborhoods, swimming pools, resterants, churchs, places of business, or graveyards."

      January 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
      • the pain

        No offence, but I don’t think white people want into “your” schools, neighborHOODs, and so on. JUSSAYN!

        January 23, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
      • Yepyep6598

        im black and i dont want you in my suburb stay away and drink your forties, smoke your crack, and kill each other i am black and i dont want my children near you slaves of the white blue-eyed liberals .

        January 27, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jennifer

    If anyone knows their history the white Europeans are to blame for black people being brought to the new world. They went to Africa, bartered for some and kidnapped others to bring here to sale and in some instances keep for themselves to do their manual labor because they were to LAZY and GREEDY to do it themselves. How else could they just ride around on a horse over their 200 or so acres of farm land and get the work done. They wouldn't have had anything if it hadn't been for the black families working their land. The slaves didn't ask to come here but our white ancestors brought them here and anyone who is racist and a bigoted needs to remember that, especially if your family made a very good living off the sweat and blood of slaves if they did you need to thank the black people for what you have. Just think what if the tables were turned and the White people had been slaves for the black people would all you racist bigots still feel superior? By:a white Southerner whose family fought for R.E.Lee, General, C.S.A.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      You are the most courageous and honest white person I've seen post on the internet. Thank you for understanding.

      January 23, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Angela

    The fact that this article is even being posted shows that we are STILL living in a time of racism. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be acknowledged as happening, although – I feel as if it's never going to go away. Race is a social construct.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hmmm

    Pay ur taxs! Right Obama?

    January 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • p41

      You are not ready to post here. Please take the garble to santorums' site.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jason

    IT's 2012 people grow up & smell the coffee, get a job & get a life.....:)

    January 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • p41

      Be specific as to what you are talking about. Don't be a coward jason. You wont get hung, or dragged thru the streets by a rope, behind a raggedy ford-truck.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheRedPyrate

      Hello Jason, your damn right, am African, PS: not African American, and pure African, and i think the African Americans should put a sock in it, salvery ended long time ago, if you want something you better get off your asses, get an education, get a job, and forget gun slinging, drugs, crime etc. do something with your life, but i guess your problem is you got out of slavery too soon, you always want a free crib, whether its a shack or not, you like to get free food and all.

      lots of you African Americans now are a disgrace to the memories of your ancestors, who obeyed their masters, did there work without complain only because they wanted a good, safe life for their kids and kids kids, now your free we even gave you a Kenyan to be your president and you still want to live in self exiled slavery.

      I feel sorry for your next 400 years.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
      • Nick

        Africans have no room to talk, you're partly why slavery exists. Hunting your own people and allying with Portugal and Spain to make this happen. And you wonder why your land is dried up and all of the riches that came from Africa are gone to the diamond markets and gold and oil markets is because you guys don't know how to run your own continent. Yet I bet you're in America right now trying to better your life. I am African American and you don't know crap so shut up.

        January 23, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
      • Yepyep6598

        @TheRedPyrate they can only think and feel and voice their opinion if the white liberals say so other than that there is no freethinking for 85% of the black democrats slavery is still live and well.

        January 27, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
      • Sann Smith

        Where have I heard this rhetoric before?? Oh yeah, There were Tribal leaders who said, "Why do you worry? This nice White man will house and feed you and take good care of you. All he ask is that you work a little and earn your keep."
        I am African American and when I hear brainwashed Africans like you speak out against your brothers and your sisters, yes, YOUR BROTHERS AND YOUR SISTERS, it makes me sick to my stomach. We, are a divided house that wars with it's self. A house divided cannot stand. If you want to know what others know. They will never view us as an ample opponent because we cannot form a union of any kind.

        February 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pototoy

    This last electoral result demonstrates that nothing has changed in that state. Bigotry and hypocrisy continue to be the clear winners. And S. Carolina will forever bear its guilt.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. NJ Sam

    We all know the true black person, search on youtube "fighting for jordans"

    January 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  16. sonic10158

    I have an idea, instead of living in the pre-1960s, why don't we think about the future?

    January 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  17. July Anne

    We were put on this earth by the Lord, who came to this world and tried to show us how to live.
    People should try to make this world a better place.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • gupsphoo

      The God of the Bible ordered a number of genocides.

      January 22, 2012 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
      • Alex

        that's false People called for genocide, an example would be the USSR with Stalin

        January 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  18. OregonTom

    We trust SC to have a presidential primary? Why? A bunch of white bigots down there.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • hemo

      couldn't agree more!

      January 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonic10158

      your racist statement about white people being bigots has proven your own bigotry.

      wake up and stop living in the past

      January 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
      • Angela


        January 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • mike zaldivar

        We're not living in the past!

        January 30, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • pat

      Unless you have live here, share our experiences, you have no idea what you are talking about. Not all of us in SC are bigots, sir. That is like saying every one in Texas wears a cowboy hat. Don't believe every thing you hear or read in the news.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Guest

    Humans are Human and The god that created one race created the other!!!! its foolishness and selfishness of humans!!!! and Judiasim is a religion but not all Jews follow it, so we have to differentiate btwn the religion and the people...!!!!

    January 21, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  20. Dan the man

    My Mom was a white maid for a Jewish family does that have racial significance? Should that be in pictures too?

    January 21, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • VladT

      No, because Judaism is a relgion, not a race. If they were Jewish whites, then it was whites working for whites. Why are Jews not considered white in your mind?

      January 21, 2012 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
      • Dan the man

        Ahh, because they consider themselves a separate race and religion?

        January 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe, San Diego

      Stay on subject segregated Blk & Wht not Jewish
      It's like red apples and green apples then you bring in a banana
      Coke and Pepsi then you bring in Ginger Ale
      It segregation is alive even in 2012 most White people won't admit it

      January 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • pam

        I'll admit it, but it is the black people that are keeping things segregated. You have black this and black that. All people are supposed to be treated equal (that is what Dr. King wanted, he would be appalled to see how many blacks behave). Most people in my generation were raised to not be racist, but black people seem to want us to be. Black people are a lot more racist than any other race.,

        January 23, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  21. helen

    This show will be cancelled anyway. It won't take too long for smart people to see what their trying to do . Hare Krishna

    January 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Nina

    Im so glad weve grown since then. Im ashamed of this part of our countrys history. I love so much about our country but this was ungodly.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yepyep6598

      if you are ashame of it it is ashame of you depart this country and never bring your B L A C K A Z Z back.

      January 27, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  23. Guest

    The picture of the black maid is just foolish. We had a white housekeeper when I was young. So what's the difference? They were both just making a living. To try to make the black maid into so kind of mistreated heroine is just plain idiotic and the worst kind of bigotry.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nina

      You should see the movie The Help. Its not fact but based on real historical events.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      The difference is a white maid wouldn't get article hits and ad revenue. You think the mainstream media is about truth and education of the public? No way..it's about $$$$

      January 22, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  24. pulsars

    I am of mixed races – I wish all of you so-called "pure bred" people would disappear over night and let mixed-race people become the majority. Some day in the future, this whole planet will have a mixed-race majority and put an end to racial prejudices and the silly nonsense of racial superiority/inferiority.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • elreyjones

      Pulsars is just the type of racist muatto bigot that I'm talking about. What is it with the lack of intelligence and overwhelming propensity for violence and disfunctionality of the african race? You people need rubbers – don't have kids- do it for God and country. The world don't need or want any more crime, violence, raping, rapping, and hip hopping. Just shows a complete lack of humanity to the rest of us.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Glenda

        plenty of violence, dysfunctionality and just plain stupidity in all races -you're not assuming yourself to be superior I hope. I don't know what ethnic group you're in but your comment is kind of irrational.

        January 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • ted

        wish your parents had used a rubber.

        January 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • Bob Knippel

        YOUR comment is seriously racist, my friend. What makes you presume Pulsar is of the "African race", as he only said he was of mixed races. Your attack on Blacks has revealed your own racism in an extremely self-incriminating fashion, which makes you look like an individual of exceptionally low intelligence. If I am understanding Pulsar correctly, his comment regarding "pure bred" people is meant to imply that "pure breds" could gain a lot of perspective regarding other racial groups if they, themselves, were of mixed heritage, as he is. Being of mixed blood, he has no reason to hate anyone, something which went right passed you. He only wishes everyone could see it like that, and I agree.

        January 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • mammsgirl

        and you thinks whites are better. Mixed race persons are not just black and white.

        January 22, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
      • TheRedPyrate

        Whoa!!, am shocked! do we still have ignorant fools like you in the world?
        well from your comment i can see your bitter that your life didn't turn out the way you wanted.
        all the crimes you talk about don't have nothing to do with race dude, and trust me whites aren't superior in any form we are all equal under God. the sooner you know it the sooner you get inner peace.

        January 23, 2012 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • pulsars

      elreyjones – What the hell is a muatto?! No – I'm not a racist. I am tired if whites, blacks, asians, latinos, etc... hating on each other. Being of mixed race, NOBODY knows what race I am and it F's them up! They are absolutely dumbfounded as to what racist stereotype to use on me. LOL!!!!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • dropthedash

        I love your position and I promote that we ALL profess to be American instead of some hyphenated description based on weak ethnic/racial terms.

        I've always found it fascinating, too, that most children of mixed heritage tend to be the most beautiful. Maybe that's nature's way of telling us we all need to just get along? I'm just saying.....

        January 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • David

        Pulars, you have some serious problems... You don't speak for me, or any of the other millions of Americans who do have mixed racial heritages. Your comments are ignorant, and they ignore the fundamental truths this nation was built on- People have the right to decide their own futures. I will grant that the definition of "people" was quite narrow at the time of this nation's founding, through the efforts of millions of Americans of all colors and through good fortune; we are living in the most tolerant and inclusive times in American history so far. People should have the fundamental right to associate or not to associate with people of their choosing, you're a racist Pulsars- You spread hate where none was before, and when called on it- You try to laugh it off.
        You're an embarrassment to anyone who tries to explain mixed race issues in a intelligent way, not all of us are like you.. Thank god for small miracles.

        January 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • Bob Knippel

        Your point is well taken; even DAVID, who also claims mixed heritage, seriously misunderstood where you are coming from. It seems some people simply do not know how to process HOW they hear something, rather than what is actually being said.

        January 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
      • Bob Knippel

        Oh, by the way, I think "muatto" is some kind of coffee drink. Either that, or pasta.

        January 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesuslives

      I understand what you are saying, but I disagree at the same time. You need to wake up, everyone onthis planet is mixed with more than one race, so since your mixed race that's nice, but for you to say that all true bloods should die is ignorant all in its self. By the way, I am African American and mixed with a whole bunch of other stuff my family is from Louisiana. What are you mixed with, if you don't mind me asking?

      January 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Joseph

    Yea,The past week.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |