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Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks and Jenifer P. Borum

Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).

Article

Carla Williams

As subjects, photographers, and workers in the photographic field, black women have participated in the medium of photography since its introduction in 1839. Immediately after the announcement of this democratic new medium, photography gained a particular stronghold in the United States, a young nation eager to see itself pictured. To date, scant evidence of black women photographers in the nineteenth century has been uncovered, although one can reasonably hypothesize that black women occupied some of the same roles that white women did in early photographic endeavors—as studio attendant, the person who would prepare subjects for their sittings; as darkroom assistant, helping the photographer to prepare and process his plates; or as photo finisher, adding hand coloring and other enhanced effects to the finished plate or print.

As photographic subjects however black women were very savvy about the new medium and its powers of communication Probably the most famous relationship ...

Article

Jacqueline M. Smith

African Americans began producing and exhibiting photographs the year after photography's inception in 1839. Long-standing creators and consumers of visual technologies, blacks have used photography to document and explore the diversity of African American experiences.

The sociopolitical dynamics of legalized slavery, antiblack sentiments, and economic expense limited enslaved persons’ opportunities to capture or commission their likenesses—the visual rendering of the original subject or what we now consider a photograph. Despite institutional limitations placed on blacks’ physical and economic agency, free persons of color such as Sojourner Truth (c. 1797–1883), an antiracism activist and feminist suffragist, and Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), a prominent abolitionist and newspaper editor, circulated their photographic likenesses in the form of cartes de visites and cabinet-card portraits. Similarly circumventing U.S. racial segregation, James Presley Ball (1825–1905), Augustus Washington (1820–1875 and the Goodridge brothers active 1860s 1880s were among the ...

Article

Kobena Mercer

Photography has flourished in Africa since 1839, when the vice regent of Egypt, Khedive Mehmet, experimented with equipment imported from France, just months after Louis Daguerre publicized the invention of the silver-plate process. As a result of interaction with Europeans in coastal cities, Africans acquired technical skills that led to the development of photographic studios in the 1860s. A wide range of regionally distinctive traditions arose during the twentieth century and African photographers have revealed a unique outlook in photojournalism, portraiture, and artistic expression. Diverse insights into African social and cultural life are shown in the reportage of Peter Magubane and David Goldblatt in South Africa; in the French West African portraiture style of Seydou Keita and in the art of contemporary African expatriates in the West such as Touhami Ennadre from Morocco and Rotimi Fani Kayode from Nigeria In contrast to the selective depiction of the continent ...

Article

Deborah Willis

The first known African Americans to practice the art and business of photography were Jules Lion, James Presley Ball, John B. Bailey, Augustus Washington, and the Goodridge Brothers, between 1840 and 1850. They worked as daguerreotypists, documentarians, artists, and studio photographers. The larger American public was fascinated with the daguerreotype as soon as Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851) publicized the process in France in 1839. The French inventor Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833) produced the earliest extant photographic image, made by a camera obscura in 1826. After the death of Niépce, Daguerre successfully fixed an image and announced to the Paris press his discovery, which he named after himself, the daguerreotype, in January of 1839.

Newspapers in the spring of 1839 published accounts of Americans experimenting with the daguerreotype process. On August 19, 1839 Daguerre publicly announced the process ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

The examination of African American history and culture must necessarily include an extended exploration of the visual arts—an African American “visual vocabulary”—that examines how African Americans visually define their own collective identity and historical identity. W. E. B. Du Bois, the towering black intellectual of the twentieth century, stated that history must be explored and felt in order to know the responsibilities of the present; imagery was and is a part of that history. Past and present would meet in this imagery with frightful intensity and authentic tragedy. Art could be a means of trying to establish a new memory of the black American experience, and in doing so, discovering an identity both American and African.

Black society and white society saw the same events differently and then also recalled them differently African American visual artists had to be empowered with political rights and access to political power which ...