[NARRATOR] Rockwell created “New Kids in the Neighborhood” for Look in 1967. It illustrated an article on housing desegregation. Two groups of children face each other across a driveway on moving day.
[HENNESSEY] For many kids moving is very traumatic. You come into a new neighborhood, you’ve left all your friends, you’re going to be going to a new school, you’re worried. Will there be kids my age in the neighborhood, will they like me, will I be able to play with them? …. So on many levels, this is a very universal situation. …
This is obviously the first African-American family moving into the neighborhood. … Rockwell is looking at … a very serious contemporary issue. But by focusing on children, I think he helps to defuse some of the tension. …
[NARRATOR] Rockwell added one detail that might have been missed in the reproduction. Notice the row of houses on the top of the painting. Look carefully at the middle house. Peeking out from behind a curtain there’s a curious neighbor who may not be so pleased about this new development.
[HENNESSEY] So obviously there’s a lot more going on here than just two new groups of kids kind of checking each other out.
[NARRATOR] Just about everybody has to move to a new town once in a while, and it’s not much fun. You have to worry about making new friends, and how you’re going to fit in. The kids on the left side of the driveway are the new kids in the neighborhood. The kids on the right have come over to see who’s moved in.
Do you think these kids are going to become friends? I put in some clues that they might be able to be friends. See if you can find some things they might have in common.
When I painted this, there were still lots of neighborhoods where African-American families didn’t live. But that was changing. The new kids here are probably the first African-Americans to move in on this street. Not everyone was happy about that. Look up at the houses at the top of the painting, on the left side. Look carefully at the one in the middle. In the window, there’s somebody peeking out from behind the curtain. What do you think they’ll do next?