Delia's Tears: Race, Science, and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America

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9780300115482: Delia's Tears: Race, Science, and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America

In 1850 seven South Carolina slaves were photographed at the request of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz to provide evidence of the supposed biological inferiority of Africans. Lost for many years, the photographs were rediscovered in the attic of Harvard’s Peabody Museum in 1976. In the first narrative history of these images, Molly Rogers tells the story of the photographs, the people they depict, and the men who made and used them. Weaving together the histories of race, science, and photography in nineteenth-century America, Rogers explores the invention and uses of photography, the scientific theories the images were intended to support and how these related to the race politics of the time, the meanings that may have been found in the photographs, and the possible reasons why they were “lost” for a century or more. Each image is accompanied by a brief fictional vignette about the subject’s life as imagined by Rogers; these portraits bring the seven subjects to life, adding a fascinating human dimension to the historical material.

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About the Author:

Molly Rogers has published essays on the history of photography, and her fiction has been produced for theater and radio. She lives in the UK, where she teaches creative writing.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* In 1976, researchers came across a cache of unidentified photographs in Harvard’s Peabody Museum. What was unusual was that the photographs, dating from an era when only the wealthy could afford to have portraits done, were of seven African Americans—likely slaves—taken in the nude. Research revealed that the photos were taken in 1850 in Columbia, South Carolina, under the direction of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz. The Swiss scientist immigrated to the U.S. to teach at Harvard, lecture around the nation, and encourage the study of natural history, supporting a controversial theory that the races were the product of separate creations. The photographs of the slaves, including a woman whose enigmatic gaze is soul stirring, were apparently part of Agassiz’s research efforts. Breakthroughs in photography came at the same time as heated debate about theories of physiognomy, the reading of character in human faces, and eugenics, with its disputes about single or multiple origins of humans. Rogers draws on archives and historical records for the facts of slavery, photography, and science of the period. For the imagined lives of the slaves—who left no written record—she draws on the writings of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison, among others. Rogers begins each chapter with a vignette imagining the lives of the slaves who were photographed as she explores the intersections of power, ideology, and imaging. This fascinating book includes the rediscovered photographs as well as others of major figures of the era. --Vanessa Bush

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2010. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1850 seven South Carolina slaves were photographed at the request of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz to provide evidence of the supposed biological inferiority of Africans. Lost for many years, the photographs were rediscovered in the attic of Harvard s Peabody Museum in 1976. In the first narrative history of these images, Molly Rogers tells the story of the photographs, the people they depict, and the men who made and used them. Weaving together the histories of race, science, and photography in nineteenth-century America, Rogers explores the invention and uses of photography, the scientific theories the images were intended to support and how these related to the race politics of the time, the meanings that may have been found in the photographs, and the possible reasons why they were lost for a century or more. Each image is accompanied by a brief fictional vignette about the subject s life as imagined by Rogers; these portraits bring the seven subjects to life, adding a fascinating human dimension to the historical material. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780300115482

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2010. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1850 seven South Carolina slaves were photographed at the request of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz to provide evidence of the supposed biological inferiority of Africans. Lost for many years, the photographs were rediscovered in the attic of Harvard s Peabody Museum in 1976. In the first narrative history of these images, Molly Rogers tells the story of the photographs, the people they depict, and the men who made and used them. Weaving together the histories of race, science, and photography in nineteenth-century America, Rogers explores the invention and uses of photography, the scientific theories the images were intended to support and how these related to the race politics of the time, the meanings that may have been found in the photographs, and the possible reasons why they were lost for a century or more. Each image is accompanied by a brief fictional vignette about the subject s life as imagined by Rogers; these portraits bring the seven subjects to life, adding a fascinating human dimension to the historical material. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780300115482

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