Photographer Delphine Fawundu-Buford is a smart, worldly woman, with a masters degree from NYU and solid commercial assignments. (Her picture of asha bandele and bandele’s daughter, Nisa, forms the cover of the author’s new book, Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story, right, for example.)
But she’s also quite youthful. So, as she’d not heard of it before, it was bracing to connect to her horror and outrage, in a recent post for her blog, And She Don’t Stop. There, she describes how, last year, she encountered an archival photograph, then, subsequently, what seems like the entire history of racist ephemera, above, depicting African-Americans, especially infants, as alligator chum.
As she wrote,
In all of my readings about slavery, I have never come across this type of sickening activity. It just seemed so far out there, that I wondered, how could this be true?
It’s not exactly clear. For example, a 1923 edition of TIME magazine reported the following:
On behalf of the town of Chipley, Fla., the Orange County Chamber of Commerce branded as ” a silly lie, false and absurd,” the story (broadcasted a month ago through the press of the nation) that colored babies were being used at Chipley for alligator bait. In its issue for Oct. 15, TIME printed the fact that the report had been circulated, but in no wise vouched for its authenticity. TIME’S story was as follows: From Chipley, Fla., it was reported that colored babies were being used for alligator bait. ” The infants are allowed to play in shallow water while expert riflemen watch from concealment nearby. When a saurian approaches his prey, he is shot by the riflemen.”
The Louisville Herald: ” Florida alligator hunters do not ever miss their target ”
The price reported as being paid colored mothers for the services of their babies as bait was ” $2.00 a hunt.”
What is clear, however, at the very least, is that white people spent a lot of time imagining what the ferocious reptile might do to Black flesh.
For example, take a look at this postcard, below:
As Fawundu-Buford notes, by reproducing the text on her blog, the card, titled “Free Lunch in the Florida Everglades,” celebrates the purported food preferences of the local fauna:
THE FLORIDA GATOR
Have you met the Florida gator?
He is the champion negro hater.
Although he finds many things to eat
His favorite morsel is negro meat.
In the latest of his ongoing series of essays on race for the Associated Press, columnist Jesse Washington asks a question that, apparently, in the wake of Barack Obama’s election, some have been wondering out loud: Is it time to do away with Black History Month?
Probably not yet.