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Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in the Antebellum South

May 11th, 2021 @ 5:00 PM


From the 1840s to the end of the Civil War, some enslaved people paid to have their photographs taken and then used these portraits to shape their identities and social ties. Slave narratives, newspapers and studio records reveal that some enslaved individuals bought images from local photographers, stowed images of sold family members in their cabins and carried images of family on their persons. Considering enslaved people as active agents of early photography, this talk examines what their photographic practices meant, especially in relation to the violent disruptions of the domestic slave trade. It also reflects upon possibilities for writing the history of portraiture when the relevant images are not available. Free—Registration required.

Presented by Matthew Fox-Amato, Assistant Professor of History, University of Idaho. Kate Clarke Lemay, Portrait Gallery acting senior historian, will moderate the Q&A. This program is a part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.


May 11th, 2021
5:00 PM
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National Portrait Gallery
(202) 633-8300
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