For several hours Thursday, Antioch College’s Facebook page featured a photo gallery that included images of a student dressed as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and another of a student who appeared to be in blackface.
The images, along with other black and white photos, were taken during a campus Halloween party that occurred between 1936 and 1938. Officials at the small Yellow Springs school removed those two photos from the gallery shortly after we called to ask why they’d post such images.
Nicole Wroten-Craw, the college’s assistant director of communications, said Antioch was not making a political statement by posting the images. The college posts so-called ‘Throwback Thursday’ photos each week for fun, she said.
“It was not our intent to offend,” she said. “We were just honestly just showing those historical outfits for our alumni.”
Scott Sanders, an archivist for Antioch’s Antiochiana collection, assembled the 12 photos taken by the late-Jack Gallagher, a 1939 graduate of Antioch, as a Throwback Thursday Halloween theme.
The gallery also include people dressed in Asian, Turkish and Mexican-themed costumes as well as a couple who appeared to be dressed in paper bag costumes.
While Wroten-Craw said it appeared to her that a man with a cigar dressed in a necktie skirt is in blackface, Sanders said he is not sure.
“Are they actually trying to portray something or someone or are they just in a get up?” Sanders asked. “Outside of the Adolf Hitler, it’s hard to say what people are trying to portray. “
Costumes many consider racially insensitive have made news in recent years. The most recent incidents occurred this week, as photos of two white men — one in black face — dressed like Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch captain, fatally shot black teenager Trayvon Martin as he walked home from the store.
Also, Dancing With the Stars’ Julianne Hough came under fire for the black-face Halloween costume she wore to a party. Hough, who is white, said she was portraying the fictional black character “Crazy Eyes” Warren from the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” She has since appologized, saying it was never her intention to be disrepectful or demeaning.
Britain’s Prince Harry famously caught heat for going to a 2005 costume party dressed as Hitler.
As for the Antioch photo gallery, Sanders said the student dressed as Hitler appeared to be mocking the man behind the Holocaust, 1939 to 1945.
A Hitler costume is the “height of bad taste” today, but it was not in before Hitler’s terror became apparent, he said.
“There were a lot of people who thought Adolf Hitler was a joke until World War II,” Sanders said. “After that we weren’t laughing.”
Sanders said it is important for people to understand the time in which the photos were taken.
“(In the picture) it looks like everyone is trying to have a good time. It doesn’t look like anyone is trying to do anything wrong,” he said. “It is important to realize that things were different and there were social norms at a time before we were alive.”
He said Halloween gives people license to look ridiculous.
“I don’t think anyone is saying anything, but it is Halloween,” Sanders said.
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