BLACK LIVES 1900The Redstone Shop
***AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 2019 - PRE-ORDER NOW***
ISBN 978-0-9955181-4-8 / 320mm x 250mm / 144pp
W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition
Edited by Julian Rothenstein
with an introduction by Jacqueline Francis and Stephen G. Hall
At the 1900 Paris Exposition the pioneering sociologist and activist W. E. B. Du Bois presented an exhibit representing the progress of African Americans since the abolition of slavery. In striking graphic visualisations and photographs, he showed the changing status of a newly emancipated people across America and more specifically in Georgia, the state with the largest black population. The hand-drawn charts, maps and graphs represented their achievements and economic conditions in radically inventive forms, long before such ‘data visualisation’ was commonly used in social research. Their clarity and simplicity seem to anticipate the abstract art of the Russian constructivists and other modernist painters in the decades to follow.
The photographs in ‘The American Negro Exhibit’ were drawn from African American communities across the United States. Both the photographers and subjects are mostly anonymous. They show people engaged in various occupations, in study and training, and posing formally for group and studio portraits. Elegant and dignified, they refute the degrading stereotypes of black people that were prevalent in white America. They also stood as a riposte to the racist representation of Africans at the Exposition Universelle, where ‘human zoos’ presented them as primitive beings leading a timeless existence outside of history.
W. E. B. Du Bois became the most influential black civil rights activist of the first half of the twentieth century. His exhibit at the Paris Exposition continues to resonate as a powerful affirmation of the equal rights of black Americans to lives of freedom and fulfilment. This beautifully designed book reproduces the photographs alongside the revolutionary graphic works for the first time, and includes a marvellous essay by two celebrated historians, Jacqueline Francis and Stephen G. Hall.
‘Du Bois is known as one of America’s greatest intellectuals – a wordsmith, a scholar, a poet, a polemicist – but this stunning book reminds us that he also had a powerful visual imagination. His work at the 1900 Paris Exposition, intently taking on stereotypes of Negro backwardness, shows a profound engagement with the image. Nobody knew better than he how images could bamboozle; nobody knew better how images could enlighten. And, as these pages make plain, his political commitments never truly occluded his aesthetic ones. Redstone Press has produced a volume to treasure.’
KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH
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