From Library Journal
Hidden Witness consists of reproductions of 69 photographs--almost all from attorney Wilson's private collection as well as a few from the Getty Museum's holdings--that depict African Americans in the 1840s, 1850s, and early 1860s. Most of the photos are formal studio portraits, but others are outdoor scenes. The commentary by Wilson accompanying each photo is more personal reaction and interpretation than conventional scholarship. Something of the difficult lives and restrictive environment in which the pre-Emancipation slaves and freedmen existed are revealed through often subtle clues in posing, clothing, sitter's interactions, arrangement of nearby objects, etc. Considering the paucity of visual documentation from the era of American slavery, this collection of photos is an invaluable resource. In contrast, Jezierski (history, Saginaw Valley State Univ.) offers us a thorough, scholarly study of a heretofore little explored aspect of African American cultural history, detailing the lives and careers of a family of black professional photographers who operated studios in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The nearly eight decades in which Glenalvin, Wallace, and William Goodridge practiced literally spans the early history of photography in America. The Goodridge Brothers not only managed to establish themselves and then flourish as professional photographers, they also gained international renown for their expertise in large-format photography. Both books will engage two groups of readers, those interested in African American history and students of the development of photography in America. Recommended for all libraries serving either of those two constituencies.-Eugene C. Burt, Seattle
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The firm Jezierski recounts here intersects American history enough to exert interest beyond its locality of Saginaw, Michigan. Jezierski noted the ubiquity of the Goodridge brothers' studio while assembling photography exhibits about Michigan's logging frenzy in the 1870s. Tracing the firm's lineage, he found the founder was a William Goodridge, born a slave in 1806 in Baltimore, who was apprenticed out to a barber in York, Pennsylvania. William next appears in York's records around 1830, a free man who conducted several businesses, later among them a daguerrotype studio and a freight railroad. Goodridge experienced the sectional crisis as an abolitionist who possibly assisted the Underground Railroad, but it was a different crisis that exiled the Goodridges from York: the conviction of his eldest on a charge of raping a white woman. Paroled, that son and two brothers started over in Saginaw, achieving success and civic leadership (the Goodridges once hosted a Frederick Douglass speech). The author's academic manner may not mean excitement, but the profusely illustrated story he's researched holds intrinsic interest. Gilbert Taylor