What ever happened to those white folks from those old photos?

A few months ago from this day of publishing, I had an interesting discussion with a white guy at work.  The subject of riots came up.  Pretty much, he attempted to place a mass association of “riots” to Black Lives Matter protesters.  Fascinated with his thoughts (which severely lacked critical thinking), I threw him a critical thinking question:

“Do you think that Black Live Matter protesters, command riots?”

I had to repeat the question because he was in total shock, as if he had walked from a train wreck, because he didn’t expect to engage in critical thinking.

Do you think MLK changed this white man’s bigoted social ideology?  Any of them?

He answered no, which was smart; they do not command riots to occur.  It’s a bit stupid to suggest such.  While he did concede the point that BLM do not command riots, he pointed out that the riot association is strong because that’s all the data the media supplies him (you don’t think that’s without intent?) and still, overall, if the protests were PEACEFUL then change would occur.  I pointed out that there’s numerous peaceful protests, they occur all the time.  I as a street photographer (and freelance journalist) have been to many, and can literally report on a lot of knowledge.  I mentioned one 60 miles from our location that happened months prior.  I also mentioned what the media does when they are peaceful protests and vigils — they leave without reporting.  Still, he was unmoved, because to him credentialed media > freelance journalism.  So okay.

“Peaceful?  You mean like Colin Kaepernick?

Once again I saw this white fellow, robbed of breath, beginning to realize what type of corner he walked himself into.  He, a regular white-American male, hates Colin Kaepernick.  He really despises Colin Kaepernick.  He hates his PEACEFUL protest.  It’s really baffling, because he also mentioned MLK which made things even more hilariously awkward.

“Do you think that all whites, or the majority of white people, were behind MLK off of one speech?”

At this point, with the strength of his disdain for Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful protest, I had finalized the convo — I told him that technically, if this were August 1963, he would have been the regular white guy who hated, loathed Martin Luther King.  I was compelled to tell the fellow that white people were NOT all on board when Martin Luther King arrived on the scene.  I had to tell him that he in his white self, technically, was the status quo, and his feelings of Kaepernick and MLK would be congruent.

“The truth is, you would have been one of the ones completely antagonistic to those protesters back then buddy.”

How many whites you know who would love to do this to any random black protester?

Being that I linked him (and for the most part, most of White America) to those angry, white supremacy defending whites in all the old Civil Rights photographs, I began wondering, where in the hell did they all go?  What ever happened to them?

I began collecting more of these photos.  Being a modern day street photographer essentially crating digging older street photographs made me realize that I’m a part of an old, long lasting American tradition — free press.  The task made me feel like I’m discovering my roots as a professional.  All those photos.  All those faces.

The faces were the same faces we see modern day.  All those angry, yelling, vulgar white faces.  What ever happened to them?  When the Civil Rights Act was placed into law, did all these people just vanish?  Did they all out of nowhere, realize that they were wrong, and we were right, and stopped their racist thoughts and ideologies?

Look at all of the white people in defense of white supremacy back then.  This is a metaphor for what happens to “SJWs” on social (and conservative) media.  Nothing has changed.

I highly doubt that the white faces in the first Civil Rights Era just automatically let go of their racist ideologies.  Those people only accepted the Civil Rights social change with contempt and learned how to BEHAVE when laws changed.  These old racist white supremacists, similar to insurgents after the collapse of the Iraqi Army in 2003, only laid low, kept their racist ideologies, and waited.  During this wait, there was a refinement of white supremacy.  White supremacy — racism in America — had to adapt, and it did.

Student at Montgomery High School protest intergration, 1963
Do you really think this young white male all of a sudden began loving MLK?

While the fellow did not get indignant and rant and rave (probably because he knew facts were on my side), many white men would do just that.  While there’s very few white folks today that would boldly state “keep America white” or something, similar to this photo on the left, the facial expression is still the same.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen that same face in white men when I speak on white supremacy.

Instead of bluntly proclaiming the defense of white supremacy, white men nowaday seek to finesse the same ideological talking points.  Similar to placing an assassin in a dress, these white men seek to soften up the image of white supremacist ideologies.

Being that white supremacists always preferred hoods and masks, nothing really has changed.  Instead of preferring white hoods, they now prefer white lies.  The white, Ku Klux Klan hood, while still existing in reality, has long been abandoned for a metaphorical one: double-speak, coded language, deflections and transference in discussion.  The empty claims of colorblindness while still acknowledging and observing color differences.  The tone policing.  The clinging relationship to ancient symbolic relics of a racist past, all while denying racism modern day.  This blatant dishonesty towards the state of nonwhites in America, serves as a new and improved white hood or mask to shield responsibility and accountability of the State of race relations.  The common German is more accountable and observant of their collective crimes against Jews than the white American is towards their crimes against black and native peoples.

Couldn’t all these white people be, technically, considered accessories to murder?  Look at their faces.

This is what happened:  When the Civil Rights laws passed, all these racist whites from these photos (and those who were never photographed, which is numbered to be far more) just sat back and never talked about it.  They decided then and there to take their sins silently to their graves, all while letting their grandchildren lie or play stupid, pretending it never took place.  I did it myself; wondered where my dad was in 1963.  1965.  1970.  It’s a shock if white people never thought to think about where their parents were during all of this.  Much like racism itself, I’m sure these whites NEVER talked about it.  Never brought it up.  I said it before… while we as black people are trying to discover our ancestors, white people are stuck trying to forget and bury their klancestors.  Sure, there are a few white folks from this old era, telling their racist stories on their death beds. Trying to make amends, looking for that forgiveness bug that makes the black community so (in)famous.

For the most part, the majority went to hell hating people because of their skin color, which will be the same destination for modern day whites who share the same congruent disdain for a mass of people fighting for their humanity.  As far as these old photos go, nothing has changed.  Tomi Lahren, for example, practically gets paid to be the yelling angry white lady in the article’s face photograph.  White people will continue to attempt to silence abolitionists like myself.  Unfortunately for them, I’m not going anywhere.

Edit: You can read my response to apologies and forced forgiveness here.

Written by Johnny Silvercloud

The Soul Brother #1 of a Kind. Consequentialist street photographer abolitionist writer/speaker who stands for any oppressed peoples. I do it because every man and woman deserves freedom of thought -- especially black folks.


  1. The guy in the Army sweatshirt and his smiling friend are actually helping the badly beaten gentleman, they are not beating him up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I interpret this photo of showing off their handiwork. I do not believe they would be proudly taking a photo or smiling if they were trying to help an obviously unconscious man. I am in tears and ashamed for this country as I look at these photos. Like the Holocaust we must not forget the cost to our humanity during this fight for equality.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Is he smiling? Now that someone else mentioned on this Post that he is crying, I have taken a closer look and notice that his eyes are wet. Am I wrong?


      2. I thought the same at first. Check out the imgur pic. I really think the men were helping him.


    2. I researched this and it actually appears to be true. There are other photos of the same men helping him leave the area. The smile may be what is unsettling here, and I agree it is a weird situation in which to smile, but there are people who just automatically smile when a camera is in their face.

      I’m not defending white folks and I was ready to believe the implication of the photo, but I am a big fact checker when given reason to be. A quick image search cleared this one up.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. You are correct. The man in the suit is crying, not smiling. The man in the Army sweatshirt has a rag in his hand covered in blood. They are trying to help him.

      The other photographs are, of course, awful and shameful.


    4. I agree with you on this… Look at the evidence. If these guys beat this man then they would have blood all over them as well. Also why even hold the guy up unless they were trying to help him. They would just leave him laying on the ground while standing over him with ‘power’.


    5. Oh please, what an untruth on the man trying to help the beaten man. He helped beat him, then proudly posed to take the picture of his action. I participated in the Civil Rights Movement & March on Washington. I know the truths on these pictures.


    6. You are so busy trying to deflect that you didn’t READ the caption under the photo. It does not say anything about the two men beating him up. Now back to the topic.


      1. It’s a bit fascinating how white folks are more into exonerating these two white men versus the overall point of the millions of white men who either beaten, lynched, or fostered the society that permitted millions of whites to maim, mutilate, murder and terrorize black people.


  2. Arent most of them Evangelicals. Have you heard the hatred, indifference and sanctimonious lies spewed from the pulpit? I;m looking at 1st baptist Dallas and the ilk who with lack of counsel run to Fox News o spew bile


  3. Wow, thanks for such a thought provoking post. I agree that many of them went into the shadows but some did learn. I remember seeing one on Oprah that came out on her show and apologized for the man he beat for being black. I believe it was during the Freedom Rides. I like to think that others did the same thing.
    I was born in 1967. I am white. My dad was in the military. My dad was from the south. My ancestors had slaves. I am not proud of that but it was accepted at that time. It wad expected. I was raised colorblind. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I really saw racism first hand and it was shocking for me.
    You are correct BLM does not mean violence. I hate that the media only shows the violent protests. My mom, kids and I have been to numerous protests (for different topics) in the past year and none have been violent. The media makes it look like all are violent and then the people start talking Blue Lives matter like that changes things.
    Thanks again for sharing your view. I just wish we could all accept we are all people. Honestly, my focus now is LGBTQ as my middle kiddo is in that group but I don’t understand hate at all.


  4. The photo of the two white men holding up the bleeding black man is actually a photo of those white men helping the protester. It’s a famous photo. In addition, you can see a napkin in the hand of the man on the left. It’s bloody from where he was wiping the man’s face.


      1. At first look it looks like he is smiling, however, if you zoom in on his face you can see it’s more of a grimace.


  5. This a topic that has followed me since those pictures were current. It has deep personal meaning for me. Huge turning points in my life intersected with the struggle for civil rights. I worked in the movement, and eventually retired from it. And I worked with, for, under and against the people that are described.

    They are still around, and they exist in all age groups. They are not going away. The struggle is how you deal it.

    As a college student preparing for a career in community organizing, I had three black organizing professors. I asked them all the same question, will a white kid like me be able to organize in the black community? Two of them said, “yeah, blah blah blah”, and the third one called me out, and said “no, and “if you really want to help the black community you will go organize in the white community and help them not be so damn racist”. He wasn’t my favorite, I certainly wasn’t his, but in the end I took his advice.

    That was 40 years ago, and now I got stories that would fill volumes.

    But the paragraph where you say, “This is what happened: When the Civil Rights laws passed, all these racist whites ….. just sat back and never talked about it. They decided then and there to take their sins silently to their graves, all while letting their grandchildren lie or play stupid, pretending it never took place. … Much like racism itself, I’m sure these whites NEVER talked about it. Never brought it up. ”

    That paragraph is as far from the reality as you can get. But what it tells me, is that white racists have been keeping their secrets much better than I imagined. I didn’t realize you were black until the end of the article. But the fact you were having the conversation described in the beginning of the article with a “lite-racist” white guy is a good sign. All those little conversations add up over time. It creates change, albeit ever so slowly, eventually over generations, over multiple lifetimes.


    1. Why are most of the comments on the two people that (may be trying to help the bloodied man? )

      Isn’t this just like trying to ignore all of the other clear murders and crimes? Some of those people where the actual culprits… Face the brutality and shame of accepted terrorism…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People tend to flag factual mistakes. It’s why accuracy is so important, as otherwise your larger message can get lost, or undermined by what gets perceived as historical revisionism.

        But I don’t in any way think this ignores or trivializes the larger message of the piece. If anything, maybe what is needed is a law college professor (or two) willing to conduct a mock trial of all of those “innocent” bystanders at the lynching scene. I fully agree they’re complicit in murder. I’d even wager that with some digging most of them could be identified.

        Which brings me to this – has anyone ever gone back and identified every last plantation and property where slaves were housed? File a class action sit demanding lost compensation for labor and property – compounded for inflation. That would be a lot harder to dismiss than vague concepts of reparations, then you’d have hard numbers supporting the claim.


      2. While some people may be students of history who want to make sure that we know the context of an image before we attempt to analyze the content, others are gleeful or eager to point out errors in the hope that the circumstances of the other photos can be “explained away” as well. Given the ages of the photos, most of the participants are probably aged or dead, but their thoughts live on in their children and grandchildren, and their actions have certainly become acceptable again. Change the clothing, and any of those folks in the background could be Tea Partiers.


      3. I agree! Why are they NOT reading the caption right UNDER the photo? It’s called deflection. Look for anything you can to draw the discussion off the topic. Don’t fall for it.


  6. They didn’t just die or stay silent. They taught their children hate and fear. They teach their grandchildren hate and fear.They often beat that fear and hate into their kids, hoping it would stick. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. In any case, racism must be defined as a mental illness and appropriate treatment devised.


  7. The picture not the point of this article. Why are we trying to avoid the point he made with Grace and dignity. The point is that we are still fighting for just civil rights not even equal right just her people to be treated civilly.


  8. My father is a racist and bigot. While I love him, his words and actions are never acceptable. I had to actually sit him down and explain that he could not come into my home and make racist statements in front of my children. If he did, he was not welcome into my home. Racists hide behind a stone wall of ignorance, protecting their anger and fear from reason and rational thought.


  9. Those racist whites are now the Democrat party. They sold a bill of goods that goes like this: you non-whites can’t compete with whites economically and socially so sell your souls and votes to us and we will give you free stuff courtesy of the taxpayers. They did this knowing that it would ruin the black family unit and lead to lots of single mothers. They knew that lots of single mothers would eventually lead to catastrophic problems in the black community. Instead of listening and following MLK’s advice the black community took the democrats bait and swallowed hard.


  10. Good questions. A lot kept quiet and waited. Some may have changed. It’s always been a struggle.
    While researching a book on the Kennedy assassination, I came upon the story of a klansman who actually saved the life of JFK and MLK at least once by informing the FBI about racists plotting to kill them. He was against civil rights but also didn’t support the violent tactics. He risked his life to be an informant, tho he also could have done it for money. Still it’s an interesting question – how many whites in the klan were secretly informing the authorities on potential violence? Not many but there were a few.
    I explored the topic here – https://toughquestionsweb.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/can-the-story-of-a-kkk-leader-turned-informant-help-guide-us-out-of-apparent-racial-turmoil/


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