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‘Black Bodies In Propaganda’ Opens At Penn Museum This Weekend

Navy poster from 1944 trying to attract African American soldiers. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Navy poster from 1944 trying to attract African American soldiers. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opens a provocative new exhibit this weekend that explores the use of black bodies in wartime propaganda.

“Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster” showcases 48 posters from all over the world that depict Africans and African Americans in ways that either would motivate them to take up arms or would motivate others to battle against the them.

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“They are active in these posters, yet they are not the one who created them,” says Tukufu Zuberi, curator of the exhibit.  “At the times that the posters were made, at the times these posters are depicting the black bodies or the black people depicted are not free.  They’re second class colonial subjects in Africa or they are second classed citizens enslaved or under Jim Crow in the United States.”

Exhibition piece "$2 Venuz." (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Exhibition piece “$2 Venuz.” (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Zuberi is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a host of PBS’ “History Detectives.”  He spent eight years gathering the pieces for the unique collection, which is now on display.

“This is history,” he says, “it shows the legacy of using black bodies to advance the cause of others.”

One of the most famous pieces on display is an Italian World War II poster nicknamed, “Two Dollar Venus.”  It shows a cartoonish looking African-American solider gripping a Venus de Milo statue with with a two dollar price tag.

“He is holding a white image that represents Western Civilization and he’s depicted as so ignorant that he is selling it for $2,” says Tufuru.

The exhibit opens on Sunday, with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m.  For more info, go to Penn.Museum.

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