Essays/Commentaries

martinhand
irina

 

Martin A. Berger

White Suf­fer­ing and the Branded Hand
This essay ana­lyzes the social and racial sig­nif­i­cance of an unusual mid-nineteenth-century daguerreo­type of a white abolitionist’s branded hand.

Erina Duganne

Black Civil War Por­trai­ture in Con­text
An inves­ti­ga­tion into the kinds of mean­ings that pho­to­graphic por­traits of black Civil War sol­diers had at the time of their mak­ing as well as some of the chal­lenges that such a recov­ery poses for his­to­ri­ans today.

Shawn Michelle Smith

A Spirit Photograph
An analy­sis of a “spirit pho­to­graph,” a form of pho­tog­ra­phy thought to bridge this world and the next.

 

 
gregboxers
joan
mollydelia

 

Gregory Fried

True Pic­tures: Fred­er­ick Dou­glass on the Promise of Pho­tog­ra­phy
This essay explores the ideas of Fred­er­ick Dou­glass on the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sig­nif­i­cance of pho­tog­ra­phy for the cause of abol­ish­ing slav­ery and for advanc­ing human equality.

Joan Gage

A White Slave Girl: Mulatto Raised by Charles Sum­ner
A nar­ra­tive of dis­cov­ery about one of the first pho­tographs used to pro­mote the abo­li­tion­ist cause.

Molly Rogers

Fair Women Are Trans­formed into Negresses
A med­i­ta­tion on writ­ing about oppressed indi­vid­u­als pho­tographed for sci­en­tific pur­poses, and whether it is pos­si­ble to lib­er­ate such peo­ple through an act of imagination.

 

 
carolgoodman
maria
mollyfullface

 

Carol Goodman

As White as Their Mas­ters: Visu­al­iz­ing the Color Line
A dis­cus­sion of the ambi­gu­ity of the color line in nineteenth-cen­tury visual rep­re­sen­ta­tions of race.

Maria Helena P. T. Machado, Flávio dos San­tos Gomes, John M. Mon­teiro

Three Essays on Agas­siz in Brazil
This series of essays explores an impor­tant but little known col­lec­tion of ethno­graphic pho­tographs made by the Swiss-American nat­u­ral­ist Louis Agas­siz dur­ing an expe­di­tion to Brazil in 1865–66.

Molly Rogers

Louis Agas­siz: Full Face and Pro­file
A bio­graph­i­cal approach to pho­tographs of slaves, con­sid­er­ing the images in rela­tion to the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional atti­tudes of the nat­u­ral­ist who com­mis­sioned them.

 

gregcircusian
dominique
anita

 

Gre­gory Fried

A Freak­ish White­ness: The Cir­cass­ian Lady and the Cau­casian Fan­tasy
What is the mean­ing of mid-nineteenth-cen­tury por­traits of white women with strange names, exotic cos­tumes, and wildly frizzed hair?

Dominique Zino

On See­ing and Writ­ing Together: An intro­duc­tion to a multimedia, col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing project
This col­lab­o­ra­tive essay by a pro­fes­sor and her stu­dents in a col­lege writ­ing course demon­strates how the images in the Mir­ror of Race exhi­bi­tion may be used to teach research and reflec­tion on the mean­ing of race in Amer­i­can his­tory and culture.

Anita Patterson

Work and the Poetry of Sterling Brown: Reclaiming Forced Labor
Juxtaposing an 1850 daguerreotype portrait of a slave, a painting by Jean-François Millet, a photograph by Lewis Hine, and a poem by Sterling Brown, this essay seeks to understand how, and under what conditions, even forced labor may be reclaimed and commemorated in works of art.