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Discussion with Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Geographic’s Editor in Chief, Susan Goldberg, revealed on Monday that for decades the magazine has covered the world through a racist lens, such as portraying native brown-skinned tribesmen and bare-breasted women as "savages” and virtually ignoring people of color in the U.S. who were not laborers or domestic workers until the 1970s.

I’m the tenth editor of National Geographic since its founding in 1888. I’m the first woman and the first Jewish person — a member of two groups that also once faced discrimination here. It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine’s past. But when we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.
— Goldberg wrote in an editor's letter

How we got here: Goldberg tasked John Edwin Mason, a preeminent historian at the University of Virginia to look into the magazine's coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad.

What Mason found:

  • Until the 1970s, the publication virtually ignored people of color in the country who were not laborers or domestic workers.
  • The publication routinely portrayed “natives” in other countries as “exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages_every type of cliché.”
  • In a 1916 article about Australia, the caption under the accompanying photographs of two Aboriginal people reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”
  • A story in 1962 about the killing of 69 black South Africans by police in Sharpeville had "no voices of black South Africans," Mason said. "That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances… servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”

The backdrop: NatGeo's "Race Issue" comes as other media outlets are reckoning with its past coverage. The New York Times admitted last week that most of the thousands of obituaries it published since 1851 chronicled the lives of white men. The paper has since published obituaries of notable women in its “Overlooked” section.

Go deeper

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.