The relationship between Black liberation and photography reveals many things about our notions of freedom and the limitations of image making as a form of common truth.
Detail of Timothy O’Sullivan’s [Rappahannock River, Va. Fugitive African Americans fording the Rappahannock] stereograph (published August 1862), in the collection of the Library of Congress (LoC)
One of the original ideas for the Juneteenth Sunday Edition was to examine the earliest photographs of Juneteenth, since it coincided with a period of great popularization of photography in the United States. Unfortunately the number of photographs from the early years of the festivities are few, though they certainly exist, which made me curious about why that might be, and what it means when certain types of omissions occur in the history of photography.
I reached out to Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, who is a leading scholar in the field of African American studies and visual culture.
Her book, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle, is a deep examination of the relationship between the Black liberation struggle in the US and photography, and how the various movements involved in civil rights used images to advocate for political transformation, challenge stereotypes, and change media narratives……..