With an essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and contributions by Janet Levine, Francis Martin, Jr., and Claudia Vess. Edited by Christopher C. French. Bedford Arts, Publishers, in association with The Corcoran Gallery of Art (1990). 140pp. including index. 10.25 x 12.25 inches. Hardcover. ISBN-10: 0-938491-38-5.
This comprehensive study of the portrayal of African-Americans by American artists of all races documents and interprets the changing, surprisingly cyclical nature of visual representation of black Americans from the colonial period to the middle of the twentieth century. Lavishly illustrated in color and black and white, the book is informed by essays and images that provide one of the first full-range surveys of the variety of ways in which visual conceptions of the African-American — from slave to freedman, comic genre figure to worker, hero, or symbol of urban American life — have mirrored this country's social and political history. The essays, illustrated by early stereotypical black images gathered from periodicals of the day, offer insights into changing white assumptions about black identity. They trace the often painful attempts by black artists to counter racial stereotypes, climaxing in the beginnings of a black artistic identity in the twentieth century. Scholarly entries describe the origins of and motivations for 116 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by 80 artists.
Facing History is the culmination of more than four years of research by Guy C. McElroy for The Corcoran Gallery of Art. Reflecting the emerging talents of a generation of black scholars, the book consolidates sociopolitical approaches to images of African-Americans in art pioneered by Alain Locke in the 1930s and revived in the 1960s and 1970s by scholars such as Sidney Kaplan and Ellwood C. Parry III.
The late Guy C. McElroy served for ten years as curator and assistant director at Bethune Museum and Archives, National Historic Site. He was coauthor of African-American Artists 1880-1987: Selections from the Evans-Tibbs Collection (1989) and author of Robert S. Duncanson: A Centennial Exhibition (1972), published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of Duncanson's work at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor at Cornell University. He is author of The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988), winner of a 1989 American Book Award, and editor of the 30-volume Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women's Writing (1988), winner of the 1989 Anispheld-Wolf Book Award.
Cover illustration: John Singleton Copley, Head of a Negro, 1777-1778. Oil on canvas, 21 x 16.25. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Gibbs-Williams Fund.
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