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cloth 1-4399-0985-7 $35.00, Nov 12, Available
240 pp 7x10 150 halftones
"Envisioning Emancipation offers an illuminating and inspiring look at the men and women who enabled, lived through, and were affected by the landmark event of emancipation. With a stunning collection of photographs accompanied by engaging new scholarship, this book is sure to have a vital and important impact on the way Americans see our nation and ourselves."
Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in American history. As we commemorate its 150th anniversary, what do we really know about those who experienced slavery?
In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.
Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.
Filled with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records, Envisioning Emancipation provides a new perspective on American culture.
Excerpt available at www.temple.edu/tempress
"When Frederick Douglass observed that ‘Negroes can never have impartial portraits at the hands of white artists,’ he virtually predicted a century of derogation and invisibility for African Americans. Images of African Americans under slavery or even later during Reconstruction are notoriously rare, and there has never been a comprehensive survey of these always illuminating photographs. In Envisioning Emancipation, Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer have painstakingly filled in many of the missing pieces, compiling an extraordinary photograph album of African American vernacular life that will be treasured as much for its historical insights as for its powerful aesthetic impact."
Brian Wallis, Chief Curator, International Center of Photography
"Envisioning Emancipation is a rare publication that is both intellectually innovative and emotionally enriching. Willis and Krauthamer have transformed the way scholars will look at abolitionism and the transition from enslavement to freedom by carefully recasting and reassessing black imagery to better understand and explore the intersection of race, gender, propaganda, and identity. The authors remind us that photography was a valuable and effective weapon in the struggle over the future of slavery in America, a weapon that was used, fought over, and manipulated by all involved."
Lonnie Bunch, is the Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
"[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....Particularly noteworthy is the attention given to women, especially their role in the Civil War.... Though it does not purport to be a photographic history of African-Americans, one will certainly see the course of history leading to emancipation."
"[T]his 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."
"Groundbreaking…Envisioning Emancipation recounts a dynamic history of black self-possession and self-determination, one that challenges the abiding myth of the crusade against slavery and segregation: that of passive black victims who obtained freedom mostly through the benevolence and generosity of their white saviors."
The New York Times Lens blog
"This is a stunning book of recently discovered photographs of African Americans from the 19th century. This book challenges the predominant image of African Americans during this period as downtrodden and hopeless, and beautifully reveals rarely seen before photographs of African Americans before, during, and after the Civil War."
"[A]rresting.... 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 bring 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."
"[R]ich and varied imagery...The prose is just as powerful.... The book tackles the difficult subject of the Zealy slave daguerreotypes commissioned by Louis Agassiz for the purposes of demonstrating racial inferiority.... There are many examples of empowerment in this book."
The Daguerreian Society Quarterly
The New York Times December 21, 2012 ran an interview with the authors and on December 20, 2012 the book was the subject of The New York Times Lens blog.
Author Barbara Krauthamer was interviewed and the book was mentioned on the CBS Evening News, January 1, 2013.
Author Deborah Willis was interviewed on CNN.com on January 1, 2013. A photo gallery accompanied the story.
TheRoot.com ran a story featuring images and the authors on their website on January 1, 2013 (picked up by MSN).
The BBC aired an interview with Deborah Willis on January 2, 2013.
Listen to a audio clip of Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer's interview with Stephanie Renee on WURD (900 AM, Philadelphia), on February 9, 2013.
Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer talked about their book at the National Archives in Washington DC on January 11, 2013. C-Span recorded the event for their video library, which can be viewed here.
Preface and Acknowledgments
The Emancipation Proclamation
1. Representing the Appeal
2. A Collective Portrait of the Civil War
3. Legacies of Emancipation
Deborah Willis, a leading historian and curator of African American photography and culture, is Chair and Professor of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She was a MacArthur Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fletcher Fellow. Her co-authored book Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs received the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work—Biography/Autobiography. Her most recent books are Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present and Black Venus 2010: They Called Her "Hottentot." (Temple).
Barbara Krauthamer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South as well as many articles and essays on the history of slavery and emancipation. She has received fellowships and awards from the Association of Black Women Historians, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
African American Studies
Art and Photography
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