1950 Superman Poster Urged Kids to Defend All Americans, Regardless of Their Race, Religion or National Origin


It makes sense that Super­man would take a tol­er­ant view of immi­grants and oth­er minori­ties, giv­en that he him­self arrived on Earth as a refugee from the plan­et Kryp­ton.

The Man of Steel may strike you as an unlike­ly mouth­piece for pro­gres­sive ideals, but 1950 found him on a book cov­er, above, engaged in con­ver­sa­tion with a small crowd of most­ly white boys:

“…and remem­ber, boys and girls, your school – like our coun­try – is made up of Amer­i­cans of many dif­fer­ent races, reli­gions and nation­al ori­gins, so … If YOU hear any­body talk against a school­mate or any­one else because of his reli­gion, race or nation­al ori­gin – don’t wait: tell him THAT KIND OF TALK IS UN-AMERICAN. HELP KEEP YOUR SCHOOL ALL-AMERICAN!”

In oth­er words, cit­i­zens must steel them­selves to take action, because you can’t always count on a super­hero to show up and make things right.

The cheap paper jack­et, above, was dis­trib­uted to school chil­dren by the Insti­tute For Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy, an off­shoot of the New York-based Anti-Defama­tion League.

(Per­haps Pres­i­dent Elect was too young to receive a copy. The back of the cov­er includes a grid for fill­ing in one’s class sched­ule and he was but four years old at the time.)

Super­man could not sur­vive Dooms­day, but the Anti-Defama­tion League, plan­et Krp­ty­on to the illus­tra­tion’s orig­i­nal dis­trib­uter, con­tin­ues to uphold the val­ues he pro­motes above.

Jonathan Green­blatt, the ADL’s CEO issued a post-Elec­tion state­ment that reads in part:

Already there have been trou­bling signs of a spike in hate crimes in the days after the elec­tion. As we look ahead, ADL will be vig­i­lant against extrem­ism and relent­less­ly hold the new admin­is­tra­tion account­able. You can expect ADL to be unwa­ver­ing in its com­mit­ment to fight­ing anti-Semi­tism, racism and big­otry.  We will mon­i­tor devel­op­ments and speak out.

And wher­ev­er and when­ev­er Jews, minor­i­ty groups, immi­grants, and oth­ers are mar­gin­al­ized or our civ­il lib­er­ties are threat­ened, ADL vig­or­ous­ly will defend those rights … We will not shrink from the fight ahead regard­less of where it takes us.

In addi­tion to main­tain­ing a data­base of hate sym­bols and a form where cit­i­zens can report Anti-Semit­ic, racist, or big­ot­ed encoun­ters, the ADL has a robust list of edu­ca­tion­al resources for par­ents, teach­ers and youth.

Mean­while, a full col­or ver­sion of the 66-year-old illus­tra­tion has been mak­ing the rounds on social media. Let us con­sid­er it a place­hold­er. Even­tu­al­ly some­one will sure­ly take it back to the draw­ing board to add more girls, chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, and chil­dren of col­or.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

High School Teacher & Holo­caust Expert Sus­pend­ed for Draw­ing Par­al­lels Between Trump & Hitler’s Rhetoric

Read Mar­tin Luther King and The Mont­gomery Sto­ry: The Influ­en­tial 1957 Civ­il Rights Com­ic Book

Bat­man Stars in an Unusu­al Car­toon Adap­ta­tion of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Pun­ish­ment

Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japan­ese Car­toons Dur­ing WWII, Then Atones with Hor­ton Hears a Who!

The Orig­i­nal 1940s Super­man Car­toon: Watch 17 Clas­sic Episodes Free Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (6)
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  • Bill W. says:

    The dif­fer­ence is the men­tioned oppressed back then LOVED our coun­try, and want­ed to be good Americans…now, all par­ties involved think our coun­try is inher­ent­ly a dark and evil place to be loathed…

  • Peter Pak says:

    @Bill W.I think you’re pro­ject­ing your own views on oth­ers. It’s a fal­la­cy to lump every­one into any one group. My par­ents are immi­grants and I’m a minor­i­ty but raised here and have the expe­ri­ence of both cul­tures. 100% Kore­an and 100% Amer­i­can, and I love my coun­try and the ideals it stands for. I say to you, don’t give up hope in Amer­i­ca. It will tru­ly be a dark and evil place if good men allow it to be so.

  • Alissa M. Clough says:

    Sounds about right, com­ing from the Man who fought the KKK on the radio…with their own pass­words and lore!

  • Bill W. says:

    I agree with your sen­ti­ment, but when you work at a San Anto­nio com­pa­ny where many of your co-work­ers are His­pan­ic (some being ille­gal), and know that a large pro­por­tion of them are mem­bers of the anti-Amer­i­can La Raza movement…Reconquista!…it shake’s your faith at times. Espe­cial­ly when some of them make it clear they’re only here for $$$, and the free-stuff our gov­ern­ment gives them, rather than the desire to be Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. Tough call.

  • wirthless says:

    A cru­cial punc­tu­a­tion mark is miss­ing! Did any­one else notice that the col­or ver­sion changes it from “All-Amer­i­can” to “all Amer­i­can,” which would be exact­ly what some peo­ple would use to make the oppo­site point.

  • Ayun says:

    Sharp eyes, wirth­less! I could see how that might play into the supervil­lains’ hands!

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