Why were blacks included in white portraits?

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ForeverFree

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Here’s a good one. Where is that slave’s family? They don’t exist and are visually lost to history. Close examination reveals that the photo studio is in Philadelphia. Oops.
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Doesn't matter if it's Philadelphia PA or Philadelphia MS. You make it seem like I'm trying to "sectionalize" this point, I'm not. Everything does not reduce to a N v S narrative.

- Alan
 

byron ed

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Despite what you might think, did you ever consider that the young black and white children may actually have been friends? I have read dozens of accounts where the children all played together and were treated as part of the family. These children grew up together and oftentimes became very close.

White kids on the plantations could play with the slave children, beyond that is speculation. Usually that relationship was left behind, as I understand it.
 
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So you're saying that the women in these photos are like enslaved women of the 19th century, which is the topic of the thread? Yikes!

- Alan

Yikes? Why wouldn't one compare the mistreatment, racism, and callous disregard for immigrants with slavery? At Tunnel Hill last year the guides specifically said the tunnel was dug by Irish immigrants because they were deemed cheaper and more expendable then slave labor.....I honestly dont see why one should offended by the comparison to people who were treated and valued no better, or even worse in valued in the case of the potential loss of life in the tunnel construction.

Earlier in the thread one made a comparison to dogs......I've seen it often in reference to the Irish......even some Irish neighborhoods were called "dogpatch".

The immigrants were doing the same jobs as well, such as housekeepers and nannies

Edited.
 

ForeverFree

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Here’s a good one. Where is that slave’s family? They don’t exist and are visually lost to history. Close examination reveals that the photo studio is in Philadelphia. Oops.
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Q: Is this woman actually an enslaved person?

In fact, free African Americans families have not been visually lost to history. Precisely because they were free. We had this picture from earlier in the thread.

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Frederick Douglass has been specifically cited for his use of the photography medium. He was disturbed that illustrations from white artists tended to caricature the Negro. Photographs presented a 'true likeness.' Authors John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and others have written Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century's Most Photographed American, which discusses this point.

We sometimes forget that only 10% of the black population in the US was free on the eve of the Civil War. In a previous post, I asked, what would photography look like if African Americans were free?

Below are images of black family life circa 1899. They are by the photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. They are from a project called the Hampton Album. They are images of school that was then called Hampton Institute, and its people, and its environs. The Institute was founded near Fort Monroe, where Gen Ben Butler originated the so-called contraband of war policy.

The project was keen to show African Americans in dignified, progressive poses. Note the second photo, which shows a family using a modern well.

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This project also showed images of older folks, people who were born in slavery. Note the use of the 'old time" well in the second photo. They juxtapose the lives and physical conditions of slave-generation people with those of the emancipation generation.

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This is about a photography project for an exhibit in Paris in 1900:

At the turn of the century, W. E. B. Du Bois compiled a series of photographs for the "American Negro" exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition. He organized the 363 images into albums, entitled Types of American Negroes, Georgia, U.S.A. and Negro Life in Georgia, U.S.A..​
At the time, Du Bois was a professor of sociology at Atlanta University, committed to combating racism with empirical evidence of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of African Americans. He believed that a clear revelation of the facts of African American life and culture would challenge the claims of biological race scientists influential at the time, which proposed that African Americans were inherently inferior to Anglo-Americans.​
The photographs of affluent young African American men and women challenged the scientific "evidence" and popular racist caricatures of the day that ridiculed and sought to diminish African American social and economic success. Further, the wide range of hair styles and skin tones represented in the photographs demonstrated that the so-called "Negro type" was in fact a diverse group of distinct individuals. The one public statement Du Bois made concerning these photographs was that visitors to the American Negro exhibit would find "several volumes of photographs of typical Negro faces, which hardly square with conventional American ideas."​
Du Bois's work for the American Negro exhibit was extensive and much praised. In the Spring of 1900, Paris Exposition judges awarded him a gold medal for his role as "collaborator" and "compiler" of materials for the exhibit.​

This an image of an African American family from that project:

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This is what African American life looked like, when African Americans were free, could stage their own photos, and create their own visual narrative. They simply did not have the power to do this as enslaved people. They were keen, in freedom, to show their true likeness. These are examples of African Americans using their power to place these visual images into history. Hence we are looking at them right now.

EDIT 1: I just want to emphasize: these projects, the Hampton Album and the Paris photos, they were designed specifically to show black life, and in a positive manner at that. As noted in Wiki,

Thomas Junius Calloway, an African-American lawyer and educator, sent a letter to over one hundred African-American representatives in various sections of the United States, including Booker T. Washington, to solicit help in advocating for an exhibit to present at the world's fair in Paris.​
The letter insists that, "thousands upon thousands will go [to the fair], and a well selected and prepared exhibit, representing the Negro's development in his churches, his schools, his homes, his farms, his stores, his professions and pursuits in general will attract attention... and do a great and lasting good in convincing thinking people of the possibilities of the Negro." Washington appealed personally to President William McKinley and just four months before the opening of the Paris Exposition, Congress allocated fifteen thousand dollars to fund the exhibit. Calloway enlisted Du Bois, with whom he had formerly been classmates at Fisk, and Daniel Murray, Assistant to the Librarian of Congress, to assemble materials.​

That is, they recognized the value and importance of this visual record. They said so.

EDIT 2: It might be useful for folks to browse this book: Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity, Maurice O. Wallace, Shawn Michelle Smith editors

From a description of the book:

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography's power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice.​
They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment.
In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or "snapshots," highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.​

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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Yikes? Why wouldn't one compare the mistreatment, racism, and callous disregard for immigrants with slavery? At Tunnel Hill last year the guides specifically said the tunnel was dug by Irish immigrants because they were deemed cheaper and more expendable then slave labor.....I honestly dont see why one should offended by the comparison to people who were treated and valued no better, or even worse in valued in the case of the potential loss of life in the tunnel construction.

Earlier in the thread one made a comparison to dogs......I've seen it often in reference to the Irish......even some Irish neighborhoods were called "dogpatch".

The immigrants were doing the same jobs as well, such as housekeepers and nannies

Edited.

I don't understand the source of your complaint.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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It looked like you were saying somehow the racism and treatment of other poor women couldn't compare at all...…..I simply disagreed, many were victims of racism/mistreatment/and had little value attached to their lives.......seems comparable to me.

1) You said I was" offended." I was not. I said "Yikes." {Def: yikes: exclamation informal; expressing shock and alarm, often for humorous effect.} I realize I shouldn't take offense to every little thing, but I was... somewhat disturbed... that I was being characterized as offended.

2) What RobertP is referring to has nothing to do with what I am talking about. For one, he's trying to make this into a N v S thing, or about my hometown of NY. For one. I'm not going down those rabbit holes.

3) I welcome any considerate discussion of the subject. At post #135, I do offer more info that addresses the thread topic. If others wants to turn this thread into a discussion of modern day political and racial issues, and the mods think that's OK, so be it.

- Alan
 
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1) You said I was" offended." I was not. I said "Yikes." {Def: yikes: exclamation informal; expressing shock and alarm, often for humorous effect.} I realize I shouldn't take offense to every little thing, but I was... somewhat disturbed... that I was being characterized as offended.

2) What RobertP is referring to has nothing to do with what I am talking about. For one, he's trying to make this into a N v S thing, or about my hometown of NY. For one. I'm not going down those rabbit holes.

3) I welcome any considerate discussion of the subject. At post #135, I do offer more info that addresses the thread topic. If others wants to turn this thread into a discussion of modern day political and racial issues, and the mods think that's OK, so be it.

- Alan

Ok...…...never really thought of racism as humorous or something to make light of myself, so honestly dont generally think of someone going for a humorous effect on the subject, but to each their own I reckon

If you find it funny, I'll gladly agree to disagree
 

ForeverFree

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Ok...…...never really thought of racism as humorous or something to make light of myself, so honestly dont generally think of someone going for a humorous effect on the subject, but to each their own I reckon

If you find it funny, I'll gladly agree to disagree

Racism is not funny. For difficult subjects, humor is often used to defuse the situation. This seemed like a time when a series of posts could escalate into something. I decided that I wouldn't go there, I went in a different direction. Probably I would do it again.

Please PM me if you have any other comments on this, as I wish to talk here about the thread topic.

- Alan
 

GS

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These black women were "stand-in-the-gap" mothers, many serving as "wet nurses", and the children were likely more emotionally bonded to them than their blood mothers. From what information I gather, many mothers in slave households were on duty, managing massive households, entertaining guests, or ensuring their slaves were housed, clothed, fed and had medical care. In such households, a child likely was sent to a boarding academy as young as five years old, many sent in Europe. Mothers also knew that if she was unhappy due to his husband's infidelities and the marriage should fail, the father would get custody of the children. Overall, mothers in such households got a raw deal, and many were left emotionally detached from their offspring from their birth.
 

James N.

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Here’s a good one. Where is that slave’s family? They don’t exist and are visually lost to history. Close examination reveals that the photo studio is in Philadelphia. Oops.
View attachment 312912
I can point out from the style of the photo that this is not only a Northern photo but also probably postwar.
 

WJC

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It is not acceptable to 'gang up' on a fellow member because of differing opinions.
Our purpose here is to understand our past, not 'win' an argument for 'our side'. If you can't contribute to that understanding, don't post here!
 

Drew

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Thanks for your response.
Just where in my brief remarks did I mention where the photographs were taken? That is immaterial. The point is Blacks are often included in "early photographs and paintings of white child portraits of the slave period."

"Early photographs and paintings" were the Provence of what we today might call, "the one percent."

These media were simply not available to anyone in the Antebellum South but those very wealthy. They don't necessarily represent the Big Picture.

Thanks for your response.
Then what are these and other similar images that are displayed in reputable museums? 21st-Century fakes?

See what I just said, above. You seem to want to believe photography was commonplace and available to one and all in the Antebellum South. That's simply not true.

Painting broad pictures where pictures did not in fact exist is a huge mistake.
 

WJC

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After Moderator review, this thread is closed to all further posting.
 
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