african-american culture

Storytelling in Motion: Jacob Lawrence's "The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis. The King James Version."

Lawrence Genesis In the Beginning

Lawrence, no. 1: ("In the Beginning--All was Void") Image From: Bill Hdoges Gallery

Replete with bright flashes of color, the "Genesis" series of Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), currently on display on the back wall of the Harry Ransom Center's King James Bible exhibition, pulled me in like a tractor beam from across the room. It is perhaps only appropriate, then, that the subject of this series is an enthralling spectacle of storytelling and creation.Though Lawrence is perhaps best known for his "Migration Series," a sixty-panel retelling of the African-Americans' migration across the United States, Lawrence's comparatively short (8 panel) portrayal of the narration of Genesis deserves attention for its ability to express a powerful sense of motion in a single place. 

African-American visual culture


Sidewalk cart in South chicago

Image Credit:  John H. White (1973) Image NWDNS-412-DA-13759

Portrait of Black Chicago for National Archives


John H. White's image of a sidewalk vendor in the South of Chicago in 1973 reminds me of Coye's and Laura's recent posts on the visuality of food culture.  Looking closely, one gleans an untold story of race, urban food markets, and of the style of life in Chicago in the 1970s.  White's series (Portrait of Black Chicago) was part of a program called Documerica, where the Environmental Protection Agency paid photographers to document environmental problems across America.  I really like White's photos for how they conveyed everything from emotionally saturating pictures of the Black Muslim community to pictures of abandoned housing in the ghettos to pictures of the lake and skyline.  White records narratives of race, which are intertwined with Chicago's political and religious history, but he also gives room to images of people's daily material lives in their environments, such as the initial photo above. I used this photo as part of the Best Practices for Digital images workshop, where we featured images archives that can enrich our teaching and scholarship.

Killer of Sheep

girl in dog mask

Charles Burnett’s little known and nearly plotless masterpiece, Killer of Sheep, offers a tender yet realistic vision of life in 1970s Watts, the racially segregated suburb of Los Angeles where poverty, racism, and riots doomed the area to generations of social and economic oblivion. Inspired by Italian neo-realism, Burnett’s camera lingers on characters—many played by non-actors—to reveal situations of familial intimacy and communal identification.

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