Zoe Trodd, “Picturing Frederick Douglass”

Zoe Trodd, Professor and Chair of American Literature in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, draws on new research into previously uncollected photographs of Douglass to show that he was the most photographed American of the 19th century. She argues that in sitting for more photographs than any of his peers, Douglass was using photographs in multiple ways: to assert black humanity in place of the slave “thing”; to show how authentic representations could break down racial barriers; to create a black public persona within the abolitionist culture of dissent.

Trodd also outlines the visual legacy of these 160+ photographs, including protest paintings and drawings with the anti-lynching and desegregation movement, statues and sculptures from 1899 to 2010, cartoons in the 20th-century black press, and murals and street art in the North, South and West, especially murals celebrating a broader history of African American dissent. She will consider which 19th-century photographs had the most impact in this 20th-century visual legacy, address the politics of adapting the youthful, stern Douglass of earlier photographs versus the elderly, sage Douglass of later photographs, and ask whether Douglass photographs had an even greater legacy in visual culture than his famous writings had in literary texts.

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