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"They were proud of the black students who came there, even though it was a poor community."

The writing on the photograph:

“I’ve been over there plenty of times and nothing has happened to me. At one time black students always went over there. It’s not dangerous so what keeps you from going over there? Are you ashamed of those people? You must think you’re better than they are. The sad thing about all of this is that alot of those people are proud of you!”

These photographs are excerpts from a series about the black community in Carbondale, Illinois.

I would like to thank ALLAH, Gamma Group, Karen, Western Sun printing, George Harris, Frame Designs, Matrix, Bill Grimes, Dar, 431 Gallery, and everyone I forgot.

Photographer Carl Pope intended this picture to introduce his series of photographs documenting the black community of Carbondale, Illinois. Carbondale is near Southern Illinois University, where Pope was a student. The photograph and accompanying text, Pope explains, “indirectly speaks about the history of the people in the black community in Carbondale. The history of this area in Carbondale is that they embraced the black students who came there. They were proud of the black students who came there, even though it was a poor community. On the weekends the black students would spend a lot of time in that neighborhood getting their hair cut, partying in the clubs on Friday and Saturday nights.”“But because of drugs and upward mobility and possibly integration, the black students quit going over there and there began to be an animosity and sort of a hierarchy between the black students and the townspeople. There began to be rhetoric about that neighborhood ‘across the tracks,’ about the townspeople: ‘you shouldn’t go over there, its dangerous.’ It was probably true,” says Pope. “Because of the growing split between the haves and the have-nots and drugs and alcoholism and hopelessness, there was probably anger and resentment. It wasn’t always that way but it had started when I got there.”

The writing on the photograph is a quote from a conversation Pope had about how it is not dangerous in the Carbondale neighborhood, but the kids in the photo are showing gang signs. Does Pope think that the picture contradicts the text?

“I never had any problem,” laughs Pope. “It is just like my friends who go to Egypt. Right now they say on the news that Egypt can be dangerous for white Americans. If you are black in Egypt they think you are African. So the question is: dangerous for who?”

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Minneapolis Institute of Arts