Just in time for back to school, the Smithsonian shared a gallery of American school supplies of the past. Browsing the photos, it’s fascinating just how many of the images featured on these items suggested where the boundaries were set for people of the time. Stamps featured teachers who were only white and female. Sports team photos lacked any racial integration. Lunch boxes commemorated shows that reinforced stereotypes. Pencil boxes showed the “right” way to demonstrate patriotism. Crayon boxes still contained colors now considered racist (like “Flesh” or “Indian Red”). Sometimes a deep dive into history is just what we need to appreciate how far we’ve come.
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Rohit Bhargava is a trend curator, founder of the Non-Obvious Company and the 3-time Wall Street Journal bestselling author of nine books.