Essay On Frederick Douglass

Essay On Frederick Douglass-48
Through his images and words, he sought to “out-citizen” white citizens, at a time when most whites did not believe that blacks could be worthy citizens.

Through his images and words, he sought to “out-citizen” white citizens, at a time when most whites did not believe that blacks could be worthy citizens.

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Almost to the end of his life, he refuted the racist caricatures of blacks as happy slaves and servants.

Second, he presented himself, in dress, pose, and expression, as a dignified and respectable citizen.

By doing so, he was defying the static foundations of both slavery and racism, which are predicated on the idea that some people of a certain race are somehow immutably inferior to others.

Douglass’s fluid conception of the self united art and politics.

Douglass’s portraits and words sent a message to the world that he had as much claim to citizenship, with the rights of equality before the law, as his white peers.

This is why he always dressed up for the photographer, appearing “majestic in his wrath,” as one admirer said of a portrait from 1852, and why he labored to speak and write with such eloquence.Douglass defined himself as a free man and citizen as much through his portraits as his words.He also believed in photography’s power to convey truth.In the thousands of murals, sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, postage stamps, and magazine covers based on Douglass’ photographs, his face and demeanor broadcast a protest against lynching and segregation.It has lobbied for civil rights and celebrated Black Power.He began his career as an abolitionist orator in 1841, just as technical improvements reduced exposure times, enabling the proliferation of daguerreotype portraits.Portraits fueled the demand for photography and constituted over 90 percent of all images in the medium’s first five decades.Engravings, cut from these photographs, circulated as illustrations in best-selling books, including Douglass’s, and in the press, enabling readers to receive the news visually for the first time. He and many other Americans believed that Mathew Brady’s photograph of Lincoln, taken in February 1860, helped elect him.At the time, Lincoln’s candidacy was a long shot, as he was virtually unknown in the east.Douglass’s portrait gallery contributed to his persona as one of the nation’s preeminent “self-made men,” the title of one of his signature speeches.Nowadays, his portraits serve as an important visual legacy.


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