Memphis Magazine releases an apology statement after September cover backlash

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – UPDATE: 9/2/2019 – Shelby County Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley issued this statement on the cover art controversy:

“Yesterday, September 1, 2019, I officially began my charge as the Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.  I take this duty seriously to best represent thirty Shelby County Commissioners, no matter their party or district.  It is very unfortunate and personally disappointing to me that the very first situation that I must address is that of racism, division and gross misrepresentation.  

I feel September’s cover of Memphis Magazine, “The Race for Mayor” to be racist, demeaning and an effort to represent candidates as grotesque, especially my Commission colleague Tami Sawyer. This is the second time in my position as a Shelby County Commissioner that I have had to decry misrepresentations of those that offer themselves up for public service, especially as a person’s ethnicity and personal features were misrepresented. 

Dr. King told us, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” As an individual and as an elected official, I feel compelled to decry efforts that divide, hurt and advance racism and I won’t be silent.  I won’t be silent regarding Memphis Magazine’s poor decision to publish intended monstrous caricatures. I hope other Shelby County leaders and citizens won’t remain silent either.  

It is our right as Americans to challenge any candidate or elected official on their political positions and direction as a leader. What I saw on the cover of Memphis Magazine was not an effort to highlight political positions or issues.  It was caricatures to hurt and divide along racial lines. Memphis Magazine has enjoyed a long-history of best representing our community and we have celebrated those successes many times.  Unfortunately, this effort fell far short of what I expected from Memphis Magazine or any periodical. 

I am sorry that these three candidates were grossly distorted and pray we find ways to unite our community, that we desperately need.”


9/1/2019 – Memphis Magazine has issued an apology for their September issue cover art.

The magazine’s Chief Executive Officer Anna Traverse posted THIS lengthy article, stating how she was profoundly sorry for the cover and the pain it caused on the business’s site on Sunday.

As of now, there are still hard copies of the magazine on news stands. Employees are working to collect them before they can be sold.

Further newsstand distribution has already been cancelled.

The NAACP President of the Memphis Branch Deidre Malone release this statement about the cover:

“A caricature by definition is a picture, description of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated. In order to create a comic or grotesque effect. In this instance, the latter was chosen by Memphis Magazine and completely perverts the importance and sanctity of the upcoming race. We are not pleased with the offensive symbolism at all.”

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