Minneapolis (and Houston) residents George Floyd and Philando Castile have been immortalized on the June 22 cover of The New Yorker magazine. The cover art was painted by Caldecott Medal-winning painter and author Kadir Nelson in a work titled “Say Their Names.” Floyd’s body serves as a backdrop, displaying the faces of Castile (over his left shoulder), Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other bBlack Americans who have died in police custody or were the victims of violence at the hands of whites over a period of 400 years. The lone exception would be Rosa Parks.
Accompanying the print publication’s cover art and story is an online interactive version that enables readers to hover an image to learn more about the people depicted and the ways in which they suffered. The entry for George Floyd reads, “Floyd, forty-six, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, after the officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer, who was fired, has been charged with second-degree murder.” Castile’s entry states, “Castile, thirty-two, was fatally shot during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, by a police officer from St. Anthony, Minnesota. The officer was acquitted of all charges.”
In a Washington Post article on the cover, Nelson described his work as a “memorial to all of the African Americans who were and continue to be victimized by the long shadow cast by racism in America and around the globe.”
He added that the “weighted portrait of George Floyd” provides “a visual context of historical institutionalized racism and discrimination against African Americans.”
“Say Their names” is not Nelson’s first cover for The New Yorker. The studio artist and children’s book illustrator’s portrait of Henrietta Lacks was recently jointly acquired by The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In a statement on his Facebook page, Nelson notes that prints of “Say Their Name” will not be for sale.