Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century's Most Photographed American

By John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd

A landmark and collectible volume―beautifully produced in duotone―that canonizes Frederick Douglass via old photography.

Picturing Frederick Douglass is a piece that delivers to revolutionize our wisdom of race and images in nineteenth-century the USA. Teeming with ancient aspect, it really is full of surprises, leader between them the truth that neither George Custer nor Walt Whitman, and never even Abraham Lincoln, used to be the main photographed American of that century. in reality, it used to be Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the ex-slave grew to become top abolitionist, eloquent orator, and seminal author whose fiery speeches remodeled him into probably the most popular and well known agitators of his age. Now, due to the groundbreaking study of John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Douglass emerges as a number one pioneer in images, either as a stately topic and as a prescient theorist who believed within the explosive social strength of what used to be then only a nascent artwork form.

Indeed, Frederick Douglass used to be in love with images. in the course of the 4 years of Civil warfare, he wrote extra widely at the topic than the other American, even whereas spotting that his audiences have been "riveted" by means of the struggle and sought after a speech merely on "this robust struggle." He frequented photographers’ studios on a regular basis and sat for his portrait each time he may. To Douglass, images was once the good "democratic paintings" that might ultimately assert black humanity rather than the slave "thing" and even as counter the blackface minstrelsy caricatures that had come to outline the general public conception of what it intended to be black. hence, his legacy is inseparable from his portrait gallery, which incorporates one hundred sixty separate photographs.

At final, all of those photos were amassed right into a unmarried quantity, giving us an incomparable visible biography of a guy whose prophetic imaginative and prescient and artistic genius knew no bounds. Chronologically prepared and generously captioned, from the 1st photograph taken in round 1841 to the final in 1895, all of the images―many released the following for the 1st time―emphasizes Douglass's evolution as a guy, artist, and chief. additionally incorporated are different representations of Douglass in the course of his lifetime and after―such as work, statues, and satirical cartoons―as good as Douglass’s personal writings on visible aesthetics, that have by no means earlier than been transcribed from his personal handwritten drafts.

The entire advent through the authors, besides headnotes for every part, an essay via Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an afterword through Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.―a direct Douglass descendent―provide the definitive exam of Douglass's highbrow, philosophical, and political relationships to aesthetics. Taken jointly, this landmark paintings canonizes Frederick Douglass via a sort he favored the main: photography.


  • Contributions from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. (a direct Douglass descendent)
  • 160 separate images of Douglass―many of that have by no means been publicly obvious and have been lengthy misplaced to history
  • A number of contemporaneous paintings that indicates how robust Douglass’s photographic legacy continues to be this day, over a century after his death
  • All Douglass’s formerly unpublished writings and speeches on visible aesthetics

317 illustrations

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And that lengthy publicity time is why early portrait photographers frequently used headrests to fasten their topics into position, to maintain them from relocating, due to the fact any circulate in the course of that point could have blurred the ensuing picture. three Large-format cameras render matters in better element, regularly, than 35mm photos in all probability can. the explanation? answer: a 4x5-inch photo is nearly 16 occasions the complete solution of a 35mm photograph. and because Du Bois respected Douglass, even writing a number of drafts of a poem he by no means released on his emotions approximately his hero’s passing upon listening to of Douglass’s demise in 1895, this can be whatever that he most likely spotted whilst learning Douglass’s snapshot in black-and-white.

Unknown photographer, c. 1893. Library at Cedar Hill, 1411 W highway SE, Washington, DC. Albumen print, nine × 7 in. nationwide Park carrier, Frederick Douglass nationwide old web site Cat. #145. Unknown photographer, c. 1893. Library at Cedar Hill, 1411 W highway SE, Washington, DC. Albumen print, nine × 7 in. nationwide Park carrier, Frederick Douglass nationwide old web site Cat. #146. Unknown photographer, c. 1894. cupboard card, 4¼× 6½in. nationwide Park carrier, Frederick Douglass nationwide old website Cat. #149. Denis Bourdon, may perhaps 10, 1894.

This can be the saddest photograph of all. damaged columns, ruined partitions, nice photographs, the amazing works of historical masters—all defaced and misplaced. Statues, nearly divine, fallen, marred, mutilated by way of vandal fingers, contact the center and draw the tears of the classy pupil; yet what are most of these soul-moving calamities, those destructions and mutilations of the symmetry and wonder of dull types, and the illusions of paintings, whilst flung into the stability opposed to the dwelling wrecks of fellows, the noblest works of God?

6; and Linda Nochlin, Realism (New York: Penguin Books, 1972). 102Through images, Douglass indicates, you could see Paris or the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome with out ever going there. 103In emphasizing mind's eye over cause, Douglass champions the union of all humanity. In arriving at this belief, he used to be prompted through Aristotle’s Poetics, Emerson’s Essays and consultant males, and Carlyle’s On Heroes and Hero-Worship. 104Douglass refers to scientists of race, really Louis Agassiz, Josiah Nott, and George R.

E. , whatever he proposal he may still say simply because his viewers had to listen it? It’s most unlikely to make sure. at the foundation of the remainder of Emerson, i'd bet: he didn’t mistrust the pseudo-biology adequate to imagine he might find the money for to overlook the pedantic qualification. ”19 i might agree. (Gougeon, incidentally, strains a number of direct hyperlinks among Emerson and Douglass, the latter more youthful by way of fifteen years, together with the extraordinary indisputable fact that Douglass truly “transcribed that component of The Liberator’s description of Emerson’s moment emancipation address”—Emerson could convey 4 of those among 1844 and 1849—and boldly wrote to Emerson requesting a complimentary reproduction of his consultant Men,which used to be released in 1850 notwithstanding introduced as lectures in 1845 and 1846.

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