Envisioning emancipation Black Americans and the end of slavery

Deborah Willis, 1948-

Book - 2013

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 973.00496/Willis Checked In
Philadelphia : Temple University Press 2013.
Main Author
Deborah Willis, 1948- (-)
Other Authors
Barbara Krauthamer, 1967- (-)
Physical Description
xiv, 223 p. : ill. ; 27 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • The Emancipation Proclamation
  • Introduction
  • 1. Representing the Appeal
  • 2. A Collective Portrait of the Civil War
  • 3. Legacies of Emancipation
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

The authors have assembled and interpreted a treasure trove of historically situated photographs of African Americans from 1850 through the 1930s, organized around the themes of enslavement and emancipation. Willis (photography, NYU) and Krauthamer (history, Univ. of Massachusetts) scoured photographic collections in public and private libraries across the US for unknown images. Their three coauthored essays respectively analyze photographs of African American slaves taken at the behest of slaveholders, scientists, and abolitionists; portraits of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth; photos of Civil War carnage, camp life, and individual soldiers taken by enterprising white photographers; and documentary images of former slaves taken by photographers in the employ of the New Deal administration. Especially noteworthy are photographic representations of blacks after 1865, which disclose how free people wanted to be remembered. The essays exemplify the best practices for interpreting photographs as historical documents--first describing their formal content, then interpreting their meaning with insights from expertly chosen scholarly studies, and lastly speculating about the people in the images. This erudite book deserves a wide audience, not least of all for its beautifully crafted prose, high-quality reproductions, and relatively affordable price. Bravo! Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. M. Greenwald University of Pittsburgh

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

This arresting book will initially attract readers with its album's worth of photographs of black men and women in posed and unposed situations, taken between the 1850s and the 1930s. Questions will automatically arise. What is the story behind each photograph? Who is the person? What exactly was the occasion for taking the photograph? Once the viewer goes back to the book's beginning and reads the text by a photography historian and a historian of slavery from start to finish, answers become apparent. Willis and Krauthamer, with knowledge and a discerning eye, place the photos in a new and greatly informative context, all in their successful effort to demonstrate the emancipation process through photographs. Their very learned analysis brings to the reader many significant glimpses into the true nature of black people's evolving status during the late slavery period, during emancipation itself, and during the often confusing days of their first taste of freedom.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance" was the caption on photographer Sojourner Truth's visiting card. In this cascade of nearly 150 photographs reaching from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, Willis (a professor of photography at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts) and Krauthamer (a UMass-Amherst historian) bring their special expertise to a stunning range of images that "allow us to contemplate not only the history of slavery and emancipation but also our continued ties to that history and its legacies." The result is a gem: haunting, touching, troubling, inspiring, and informative. The subjects are ordinary people, unsung in anonymity. The escaped slave Dolly pictured on a reward notice, a group gathered for a 1916 slave reunion, Emancipation Day celebrations, fugitives fording a river, chimney sweeps, family groups, and penal slavery crews are all part of this rich, diverse cornucopia. Particularly noteworthy is the attention given to women, especially their role in the Civil War. Unfortunately, the photographs are not keyed to the text, making a nuisance of linking them to the author's clarifications. Though it does not purport to be a photographic history of African-Americans, one will certainly see the course of history leading to emancipation. 148 b&w illus. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Willis (photography & imaging, Tisch Sch. of the Arts, New York Univ.; Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present) and Krauthamer (history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South) have assembled approximately 150 images from the 1850s through the first part of the 20th century, documenting African Americans' lives across the arc of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and citizenship. In the 1850s, anthropologists and slaveholders began using photography to prove racist ideologies, justify the institution of slavery, and document ownership. As African Americans joined and assisted the Union army, they began to pose for portraits to assert their new status as free people, citizens, and soldiers. They later used a similar strategy to project respectability when Jim Crow laws threatened their freedom. The photographs here include well-known portraits of famous African Americans such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth as well as previously unknown photographs about which the authors and the reader can only speculate. VERDICT Although some of the explanatory text accompanying the photographs is disjointed and somewhat superficial, this is an important addition to the documentary study of African Americans from slavery into the 20th century and marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.-Kate Stewart, American Folklife Ctr., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.