American photography's role in shaping nineteenth-century attitudes around slavery has been explored in a range of academic disciplines, including art history, American studies, African American studies, women's and gender studies, and literary studies. The photograph has been studied as a valuable discursive object from which we can glean information about how enslaved black people were viewed by the state, violated at the hands of slave-owning families, and mobilized for consensus purposes by Northern abolitionists prior to the Civil War. Ex-slaves such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman realized the political stakes of image-making in the production, circulation, and formation of more liberating portraits of black identity. Provided that nineteenth-century photography illuminates so clearly the politics at play in both the defense of and protest against the United States slave economy, its absence in American historical scholarship is particularly curious.

Matthew Fox-Amato works to address this gap in Exposing...

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