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The Bitter and the Sublime: Deb Willis on African American History Through Photographs

Deborah Willis, chair of Tisch's Photography & Imaging Department and a leading scholar of African American photography, has devoted her career to questions of black representation through images. Most recently, she's focused on bondage and freedom in the 19th-century with the book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (for which she and co-author Barbara Krauthamer won a 2014 NAACP Image Award) and a chapter in The Image of the Black in Western Art (edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.).

In this video, Willis—recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships—discusses the power of 19th-century photographs of the enslaved black body, and reflects on how African American photographers have documented their communities over the years.

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