[Riders on a Moving Train near Johannesburg, South Africa]

Ernest Cole South African

Not on view

One of South Africa’s first black photojournalists, Ernest Cole set out to comprehensively document contemporary life in the country from a specifically black perspective, exposing the corrosive effects of daily political injustices under the white supremacist regime. His photographs of the segregated railway stations and trains depict the dehumanizing conditions black African workers endured on their daily commutes. Having been forced to relocate to towns far from their jobs, they were subjected to such extreme overcrowding that they were forced to stand packed together for hours at a time; others were forced to ride clinging to the exterior of the train. In his 1967 book, House of Bondage, in which this photograph was published, Cole wrote of the dangerous practice of hanging on to precarious perches on the outside of trains, which was called "washing": "For when a train goes by at speed these passengers look like clothes hanging on a washline. It is no exxageration to say that this wash hangs on for dear life. In one recent year, about one hundred and fifty Africans were killed riding on the Johannesburg trains alone."

[Riders on a Moving Train near Johannesburg, South Africa], Ernest Cole (South African, Pretoria 1940–1990 New York), Gelatin silver print

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