Black Activism and Photography from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement
When Sojourner Truth declared that she sold the “shadow” (photographic portraits of herself) to support the “substance” (the causes of abolition and the rights of women), she recognized the power of images to shape opinion and create economic value. How did the former slave strategically deploy and circulate photography as a form of political activism? Join a conversation with UC Berkeley professors Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (History of Art) and Leigh Raiford (African American Studies) and photographer/photography historian Makeda Best of the California College of the Arts on the uses to which photography has been put in the African American struggle for political change.
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley. Grigsby specializes in eighteenth- through early twentieth-century French and American art and visual and material culture, particularly in relation to the politics of race, slavery, and colonialism. She is the author of three books: Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (2002); Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Panama Canal (2012); and Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance (2015).
Leigh Raiford is associate professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. She is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle (2011).
Makeda Best, assistant professor in Visual Studies at the California College of the Arts, is an historian of photography. She is currently revising a book on the Civil War–era photographer Alexander Gardner, and coediting a volume titled Conflict, Identity and Protest in American Art.