Fifty-one years ago today, James Baldwin was the first black writer to grace the cover of TIME Magazine. As with anyone who makes the cover of TIME, it marked Baldwin as an important figure of his era, validating his work and influence in a way that few other publications can.
In the years following Baldwin’s cover, there have been two — we shit you not — just two other writers of color who have been featured on the cover of TIME. (This isn’t even considering female writers, gay writers, latino writers or anyone else who breaks the heteronormative-white-American-male author archetype.) There is no doubt that the writers who have been on the cover of TIME deserve it, but it’s just that on the anniversary of Baldwin’s cover, while we culled through TIME cover archives to find the ones featuring authors, it became difficult to not see a pattern.
Here at The Airship, we appreciate TIME’s decision to celebrate writers. The collection of covers below are a tribute to the magazine and its role in both literature and society at large — but it’s also a call for change. As you scroll through the covers below, consider: How many of these covers showcase just one kind of writer? One gender? One race? One experience? And is that really a good thing for literature?
Are there any writers you feel should be featured on TIME but haven't been? Are there any whom you think didn't deserve the recognition? Let us know in the comments below.
Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former cheesemonger, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese. Follow her on Twitter: @moorefreddie
(Image credits: TIME)
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