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Picturing Frederick Douglass : An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century's Most Photographed American
by John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd and Celeste-marie Bernier and Henry Louis Gates


Overview -

Picturing Frederick Douglass is a work that promises to revolutionize our knowledge of race and photography in nineteenth-century America. Teeming with historical detail, it is filled with surprises, chief among them the fact that neither George Custer nor Walt Whitman, and not even Abraham Lincoln, was the most photographed American of that century.  Read more...


 
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More About Picturing Frederick Douglass by John Stauffer; Zoe Trodd; Celeste-marie Bernier; Henry Louis Gates
 
 
 
Overview

Picturing Frederick Douglass is a work that promises to revolutionize our knowledge of race and photography in nineteenth-century America. Teeming with historical detail, it is filled with surprises, chief among them the fact that neither George Custer nor Walt Whitman, and not even Abraham Lincoln, was the most photographed American of that century. In fact, it was Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the ex-slave turned leading abolitionist, eloquent orator, and seminal writer whose fiery speeches transformed him into one of the most renowned and popular agitators of his age. Now, as a result of the groundbreaking research of John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Douglass emerges as a leading pioneer in photography, both as a stately subject and as a prescient theorist who believed in the explosive social power of what was then just a nascent art form.

Indeed, Frederick Douglass was in love with photography. During the four years of Civil War, he wrote more extensively on the subject than any other American, even while recognizing that his audiences were "riveted" by the war and wanted a speech only on "this mighty struggle." He frequented photographers' studios regularly and sat for his portrait whenever he could. To Douglass, photography was the great "democratic art" that would finally assert black humanity in place of the slave "thing" and at the same time counter the blackface minstrelsy caricatures that had come to define the public perception of what it meant to be black. As a result, his legacy is inseparable from his portrait gallery, which contains 160 separate photographs.

At last, all of these photographs have been collected into a single volume, giving us an incomparable visual biography of a man whose prophetic vision and creative genius knew no bounds. Chronologically arranged and generously captioned, from the first picture taken in around 1841 to the last in 1895, each of the images--many published here for the first time--emphasizes Douglass's evolution as a man, artist, and leader. Also included are other representations of Douglass during his lifetime and after--such as paintings, statues, and satirical cartoons--as well as Douglass's own writings on visual aesthetics, which have never before been transcribed from his own handwritten drafts.

The comprehensive introduction by the authors, along with headnotes for each section, an essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an afterword by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.--a direct Douglass descendent--provide the definitive examination of Douglass's intellectual, philosophical, and political relationships to aesthetics. Taken together, this landmark work canonizes Frederick Douglass through a form he appreciated the most: photography.

Featuring:

  • Contributions from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. (a direct Douglass descendent)
  • 160 separate photographs of Douglass--many of which have never been publicly seen and were long lost to history
  • A collection of contemporaneous artwork that shows how powerful Douglass's photographic legacy remains today, over a century after his death
  • All Douglass's previously unpublished writings and speeches on visual aesthetics

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780871404688
  • ISBN-10: 0871404680
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publish Date: November 2015
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 12.1 x 9.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Social Activists
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Cultural Heritage

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-10-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

This illustrious book collects all 160 photographs of renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astutely places Douglasss personal interest in photography into the context of his career and legacy. The photographs make up most of the book. Organized chronologically, each photoreproduced in duotoneis given a full-page spread with biographical details on each photographer. In the following sections, the authors examine the effect of these photos on visual representations of Douglass in other mediums, both in his lifetime and after. They note how Douglass formed a philosophy of photography that underscored his determination to present himself as a dignified and respected citizen. He never smiled for the camera, refuting the myth of contented slaves. The final section reprints three of the four lectures on photography Douglass delivered during the Civil War, in which he describes the mighty power of picture making as the process by which man is able to posit his own subjective nature outside of himself... so that it becomes the subject of distinct observation and contemplation. This study provides a multifaceted, unique look at one of the most influential figures of American history. Illus. (Nov.)

 
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