Current Events

10 Landmark Covers That Put Time Magazine on the Right (and Wrong) Side of History

Pin it

Laverne Cox

This week, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time. This is an exciting moment for the LGBT community, and both Cox (who was controversially omitted from Time 100 list last month) and Time are worthy of our applause. Let’s look back at nine more landmark covers the magazine has published in its 91-year history — some of which reflected our cultural climate better than others.

Eleonora Duse (1923)


Unlike some less diversity-friendly publications (ahem), it didn’t take Time (which launched in March of 1923) long to feature a woman on its cover. In July 1923, actress Eleonora Duse became both the first woman and the first Italian to cover Time. That year, Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment and the proposed legislation was introduced to Congress for the first time.

Man of the Year: Adolf Hitler (1939)


Time has taken heat for this cover for the better part of a century. The magazine would later argue that they named Hitler — already a terrifying figure on the world stage, he’d annexed the Sudetenland in 1938 — as their Man of the Year not because they condoned his actions, but simply in recognition of the profound threat to democracy that he represented.

The Blunt Reality of War in Vietnam (1965)


This disturbing photo of a Viet Cong prisoner — which appeared on the cover of LifeTime‘s now-defunct sister publication — helped sway public opinion against the Vietnam War. The photographer, Paul Schutzer, was killed in 1967 while embedded with Israeli troops in the Six-Day War.

Is God Dead? (1966)

Time‘s first all-text cover was wildly controversial — the magazine received a record-setting 3,500 letters to the editor — and marked an important step towards the mainstreaming of the secular movement in America. The issue even made a cheeky cameo appearance in Rosemary’s Baby.

The Gun in America (1968)


Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on April 4, 1968. Robert F. Kennedy was shot on June 6, 1968. Two weeks later, Time published a scathing anti-gun cover story. The striking Roy Lichtenstein illustration depicts a revolver aimed directly at the reader.

Black America 1970


This portrait of Rev. Jesse Jackson — who, in the years since King’s death, had emerged as one of the most important figures in the Civil Rights Movement — was painted by Jacob Lawrence, a seminal American Modernist and the first African-American artist to be represented by a New York gallery.

An American Tragedy (1994)

After O.J. Simpson was charged with the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Time chose to run his mug shot as their cover. But their “artistic interpretation” thereof involved darkening the disgraced football star’s skin tone (compare it to the Newsweek cover that used the same image) — Benjamin Chavis, executive director of the NAACP, said Simpson was portrayed like “some kind of animal.” It’s not often that we’ll go out of our way to defend the author of If I Did It, but the racist implications of this portrait are difficult to overlook.

Yep, I’m Gay (1997)

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out on the cover of Time. She was then the star of her own sitcom, Ellen — her character discovered she was a lesbian at the same time that the real Ellen publicly opened up about her sexuality. The show was soon cancelled. DeGeneres claims she couldn’t find work for three years as a result of speaking out.

Are You Mom Enough? (2012)


Many readers were scandalized by this photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her nearly four-year-old son. The cover ignited a national debate about extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting.