My Wellesley

Picturing Frederick Douglass

November 8, 2017

In his lecture, “Picturing Frederick Douglass,” John Stauffer explains how and why Frederick Douglass became the most photographed American in the nineteenth century. Douglass believed photography could be a powerful weapon for battling slavery and racism and achieving civil rights, a complement to speeches, writings, and other forms of protest. Through the circulation of his portraits, he helped launch one of the great ideological wars in American history: between dignified African Americans and racist stereotypes. In the process he became a public face of the nation. (This is an event co-sponsored by Africana Studies, American Studies, History Department and the Writing Program.)

John Stauffer
John Stauffer
Professor of English and African American Studies, Harvard University

John Stauffer is Professor of English and African American Studies and former chair of American Studies at Harvard University, and the editor of 21st Editions, a limited edition photography press. He is the author or editor of over 20 books and 100 articles focusing on antislavery and/or photography. Two of his books (GIANTS and State of Jones) were briefly national bestsellers. The Black Hearts of Men (2002) was the co-winner of the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Lincoln Prize 2nd Place winner. The Battle Hymn of the Republic (2013) and Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015) were both Lincoln Prize finalists. His interest in visual culture extends to exhibitions and film. He advised and contributed to the travelling exhibition, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY (2012-14). He consulted on and appeared in three award-winning documentaries, “God in America,” “The Abolitionists,” and “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”; and he was a consultant for the feature films Django and Free State of Jones. His essays and reviews have appeared in Time, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and in scholarly journals and books. He has been featured on national radio and television shows and has lectured throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 2009 Harvard named Professor Stauffer the Walter Channing Cabot Fellow for "achievements and scholarly eminence in the fields of literature, history or art." He has also received two teaching awards from Harvard. He lives with his wife Deborah Cunningham and their two children, Erik and Nick, in Cambridge, Mass.

Free and open to the public.