In 1963, Norman Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on with one of his most powerful paintings, The Problem We All Live With. At the time editorial policies governed the placement of minorities in his illustrations (restricting them to service industry positions only). The painting was a clear indicator that Rockwell was supporting equality and tolerance.
I’ve heard it said that Norman Rockwell was safe because he strayed away from depicting any direct social commentary in his work — his painting of a six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted to school amidst the chaos of protestors that didn’t agree with the United States Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education says otherwise. That unpopular ruling that declared the state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional, that could not be more frankly expressed than in this emotional tribute to courage.
*“The Problem We All Live With,” Norman Rockwell, 1963 Oil on canvas, 36” x 58” Illustration for “Look,” January 14, 1964 Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum*
Learn more about that landmark United States Supreme Court case at PBS/The Supreme Court — Expanding Civil Rights.