Augustus Washington: Visible, Not Seen

Augustus Washington (1820/21-1875) was “the son of a South Asian immigrant” a formally enslaved black Virginian, according to this article published in The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine this spring. Washington studied at Dartmouth, entering with the class of 1847. There, on the Hanover, New Hampshire campus, Washington learned how to make daguerreotypes. Washington and Dempsey R. Fletcher were the only students of African descent at Dartmouth in 1843-44.

Washington’s portrait of John Brown (circa 1846-47) is well-known. Yet there are no confirmed images of Washington himself. Photo historians have been searching and writing about Washington for decades, and the published literature on Washington continues to grow.

Ad-for-Augustus-Washingtons-daguerreotypes-in-Hartford-Daily-Courant-10081852-by-Conn.-Historical-Society

“Advertisement from The Hartford Daily Courant, October 8, 1852. This ad shows the world having its picture taken at Washington’s studio.” – Image, Connecticut Historical Society

Wilson Jeremiah Moses’ Liberian Dreams: Back to Africa Narratives from the 1850s (Penn State University Press, 2010) provides the opportunity to hear Washington’s voice through his written words. Before his migration to Liberia in 1853, Washington wrote this letter to an US newspaper. In Liberia, Washington was a photographer, a sugar cane planter and landowner, and a politician. (Washington’s Dartmouth classmate, Dempsey R. Fletcher, mentioned above, also had lived in Liberia as boy and returned there after studying at Dartmouth.) The African Colonization Movement is a complex subject, and Washington’s images of its key figures helps us think about “what” Africa was and is.

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Augustus Washington, Urias Africanus McGill, circa 1854-60. Image: Better Photography website 

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CONF: Black Portraiture Revisited II – Feb. 19-20, 2016 @NYU

See Black Portraiture Conference @NYU Feb. 2016

Associate Director, Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas

For more information, please go to:

Associate Director, Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

SYMP: American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora @ Smithsonian American Art Museum, October 4-5, 2013

American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora

Smithsonian American Art Museum | Eighth and G Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

October 4-5, 2013

This symposium examines the role of Africa and the African Diaspora in the development of art of the United States, from nineteenth-century portraiture to American modernism; from the Harlem Renaissance to the contemporary art world. Speakers include Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University, Krista Thompson of Northwestern University, Jeffrey Stewart of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Celeste-Marie Bernier of the University of Nottingham, James Smalls of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and artist and distinguished scholar David C. Driskell. A full schedule is listed below. For more information, visit AmericanArt.si.edu/research/symposia/2013/terra/.

The event is free, but registration is required at www.America-Africa.eventbrite.com. The symposium will be available through a simultaneous webcast; an archived version will remain online indefinitely. Recordings of past symposia including “Encuentros: Artistic Exchange between the U.S. and Latin America” and “East-West Interchanges in American Art” are now available on the museum’s website, ArtBabble, YouTube, and iTunes U.

Continue reading “SYMP: American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora @ Smithsonian American Art Museum, October 4-5, 2013”

CFP: African Photography issue of Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies

Call for papers for a special issue of Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies

African Photography: Realism and After

The place and meaning of photographs in Africa has shifted dramatically
over time, from colonial and ethnographic practices to radical new forms
of contemporary representation. Photographs circulate as documents, as
remnants in the aftermath of violence and dislocation, as both public
and private records of celebration, kinship and dwelling, and as
artworks. Photography offers a suggestive surface for engagements with
questions of both the imaginary and the real. This special issue of
Social Dynamics invites papers that explore the history, theory and
practice of photography across the continent.

Topics might include:

The role of portraits and family albums
Photographs of public figures
Photography and the history and memory of slavery
African photography and postcolonial modernity
Reading photographs as colonial documents
Photography and liberation struggles
Photography and national history
Local histories of photography
Art photography and imaginative transformation

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words by the 22 February 2013 to:
kyliethomas.south@gmail.com

Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies is a peer-reviewed journal
that is published three times a year by Taylor & Francis in electronic
and print format.  The journal is based at the Centre for African
Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is edited by
Louise Green and Kylie Thomas.

For more information about the journal see:
http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rsdy20/current