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Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0822333432
ISBN-10: 0822333430
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  • Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Photography on the Color Line should be widely read and widely taught. In this outstanding book, Shawn Michelle Smith has offered not only a spirited reading of a historically important group of photographs but also a methodology and theoretical grounding that are widely applicable even beyond the specific archive of the Du Bois photographs.”—Laura Wexler, author of Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism


“Photography on the Color Line is both a complicated and fascinating read on race, human displays at expositions, and Du Bois’s notion of double consciousness. It is groundbreaking work on the Du Boisian concept of life on the color line.”—Deborah Willis, coauthor of A Small Nation of People: W. E. B. Du Bois and African American Portraits of Progress

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.

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Product Details

  • Series: a John Hope Franklin Center Book
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (June 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822333430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822333432
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shawn Michelle Smith is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Format: Hardcover
The book has 2 very contrasting parts. The first is an analysis of Du Bois' collection of Georgia Negro photographs, that he exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Several hundred photos. Mostly of middle class American Negroes, well dressed and well posed for the photographer. (Who was not actually Du Bois himself.) The photos tended to show people born after the end of the Civil War and slavery.

In that Paris Exposition, Du Bois' offering was a deliberate contrast to the other depictions of Africans, which came from the European empires in Africa. These invariably showed tribal Africans. Backward and ignorant. This was the ideological or racial justification for the White Man's Burden of imperialism. What Du Bois depicted were educated Americans, as an eloquent counterpoint. Here were people of African descent, but otherwise indistinguishable from white middle class Americans or Europeans.

Another fillip was the inclusion of light skinned Negroes by Du Bois. As a rejoinder to a strict racial and racist separation promulgated by some whites. In one example, there is a photo of a girl who looked more southern European (think Spaniard or Italian perhaps) than African. Yet to the white mainstream, she would have been irrevocably classified as Negro.

The second half of the book studies the lynching photos. Taken by whites at lynchings throughout the American South. Here, Smith takes particulars never to show the grotesqueries of the victims. (Other books adequately do this.) Instead, there is an incisive analysis of the white spectators and participants. We see them preening and guiltless. Many of the photos were in fact used as postcards, sent by the participants to others. While the white ideology of those times depicted Negroes as savages, the book asks, who were the actual savages?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the history of photography and also in African American photographers impact in history this is the book for you. Highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is about the photographs taken of middle class black people. These photographs were shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition, at the American Negro Exhibit. They are still interesting today,because the show how black people looked and dressed in that era. Also of interest were photographs of blacks who looked more white than black, including a black albino person. I already knew about blacks being raped by whites during slavery, which would render their off-spring mulatto... or looking totally white. I haven't seen many photographs of them though. All of the photographs in this book are superb in quality. I found the text about these photographs to be very informative as well.
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Great old-time, Victorian-age photos of Black people in their splendor. Why aren't these images more widely known?
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Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
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