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June 9, 2024

Portraits of Beautiful Black Women Featured on the Drum Magazine Covers From the 1950s and 1960s

For centuries the depiction of women has never been favorable, women are illustrated as mere objects to be analyzed, sexualized and measured by men. Drum magazine as one of the leading publications to document the black people in the 1950s, they also followed international trends that depict women in positions that were not equal to their male counterparts.

In 1951, the first edition of Drum magazine was released with the title of The African Drum – a magazine for Africa by Africa first appeared in March. Before the founder Jim Bailey and editor Bob Crisp were facing financial problems because of the lack of appeal from the black readers, the sales for the magazine were low and the readers who reside in the townships could not implement the agricultural tips suggested. Bailey implemented a few changes in the management as well as the content which mainly concerned articles that relate to the ecology and agriculture as well as documenting music from the African tribal genre. Bailey realized that there is an emerging evolution of urbanization that was being formed in many of the black communities that needed to be documented. A shift in strategy aimed at winning more readers saw increasing numbers of black male journalist and photographers being hired.

The editor team was changed to include journalist such as Henry Nxumalo and Anthony Sampson worked together to revamp the design, aesthetics and content to fit in with the demands of the market. One of the changes that followed the magazine was to emulate an American culture, which was seen as being more contemporary, the decision was in support of the African advisory board to assist with the transition.

In the initial years the publication was only in circulation in South Africa, where the major focus was on Johannesburg, and then moved to include covering the rest of the African continent. In an effort to depict the true realities of African lives, the publication faced clashes with the state as it enforced “efforts to censor the press escalated from the middle of the 1950s and in 1956 for instance. Between the years 1965 and 1968 the publication faced major troubles as it was banned by the state.

Drum magazine is still in monthly circulation today, but the direction has completely changed from being political driven as “powerful shapers of public opinion” to that of publication that embrace tabloid stories.


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