A More Perfect Likeness

Laura Wexler

Laura Wexler

Frederick Douglass: On Photography

Visual culture expert and author Laura Wexler will discuss the importance of early photography to a prominent African-American abolitionist during a lecture, “Frederick Douglass: On Photography,” at Dickinson on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Stern Center Great Room.

Wexler is a professor of American studies, film & media studies and women’s, gender & sexuality studies at Yale University. She will detail how, in the early days of photography, many prominent African-American intellectuals and activists recognized the potential power of the photograph. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and a prominent speaker, writer and abolitionist, posed for 160 separate photographs during his lifetime (more than almost any other American of the 19th century) and gave four speeches on photography. He believed photography could be used to imagine a reunified and perfected United States after the Civil War and to reveal the humanity of people who were previously dehumanized by slavery.

Wexler is co-director of the Yale Public Humanities Program and the founder and director of the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale. She has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a Henry R. Luce Foundation Grant for her 2007-2010 project Women, Religion and Globalization. Her writing on photography and visual culture includes the book Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism and the essay ‘A More Perfect Likeness:’ Frederick Douglass and the Image of the Nation, in Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity, edited by Maurice Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith.

Wexler’s lecture is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program. Founded in 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, recognize academic excellence and foster freedom of thought and expression. Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the visiting scholars and the resident faculty and students.

The event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and Phi Beta Kappa.

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Published November 8, 2016