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Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (John Hope Franklin Center Books)by Shawn Michelle Smith
Synopses & Reviews
Through a rich interpretation of the remarkable photographs W. E. B. Du Bois compiled for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition, Shawn Michelle Smith reveals the visual dimension of the color line that Du Bois famously called andldquo;the problem of the twentieth century.andrdquo; Du Boisandrsquo;s prize-winning exhibit consisted of three albums together containing 363 black-and-white photographs, mostly of middle-class African Americans from Atlanta and other parts of Georgia. Smith provides an extensive analysis of the images, the antiracist message Du Bois conveyed by collecting and displaying them, and their connection to his critical thought. She contends that Du Bois was an early visual theorist of race and racism and demonstrates how such an understanding makes the important concepts he developedandmdash;including double consciousness, the color line, the Veil, and second sightandmdash;available to visual culture and African American studies scholars in powerful new ways.
Smith reads Du Boisandrsquo;s photographs in relation to other turn-of-the-century images such as scientific typologies, criminal mugshots, racist caricatures, and lynching photographs. By juxtaposing these images with reproductions from Du Boisandrsquo;s exhibition archive, Smith shows how Du Bois deliberately challenged racist representations of African Americans. Emphasizing the importance of comparing multiple visual archives, Photography on the Color Line reinvigorates understandings of the stakes of representation and the fundamental connections between race and visual culture in the United States.
An exploration of the visual meaning of the color line and racial politics through the analysis of archival photographs collected by W.E.B. Du Bois and exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1900.
Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained fame in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator and earned a living partly by selling photographic carte de visite portraits of herself at lectures and by mail. Cartes de visite, similar in format to calling cards, were relatively inexpensive collectibles that quickly became a new mode of mass communication. Despite being illiterate, Truth copyrighted her photographs in her name and added the caption andldquo;I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. Sojourner Truth.andrdquo;
Featuring the largest collection of Truthandrsquo;s photographs ever published,and#160;Enduring Truthsand#160;is the first book to explore how she used her image, the press, the postal service, and copyright laws to support her activism and herself. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby establishes a range of important contexts for Truthandrsquo;s portraits, including the strategic role of photography and copyright for an illiterate former slave; the shared politics of Truthandrsquo;s cartes de visite and federal banknotes, which were both created to fund the Union cause; and the ways that photochemical limitations complicated the portrayal of different skin tones. Insightful and powerful,and#160;Enduring Truthsand#160;shows how Truth made her photographic portrait worth money in order to end slaveryandmdash;and also became the strategic author of her public self.
About the Author
Shawn Michelle Smith is Associate Professor of American Studies at Saint Louis University. She is the author of American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture.
Table of Contents
Part I Early Cartes de Visite1 Truth in Indiana (1861)
2 Truth as Libyan Sibyl
3 Truth in Michigan (1863)
Part II Shadows and Substance
4 Truthandrsquo;s Captioned Cartes de Visite (after 1864)
5 Shadows and Chemistry
Part III Texts and Circulating Paper
6 Truthandrsquo;s Illiteracy
7 Truthandrsquo;s Copyright
8 Money and the Civil War
Part IV Collecting and the Late Photographs
9 Album Politics
10 Truthandrsquo;s Last Portraits (1881andndash;82)
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