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Chapter 12 - Visual Insubordination within Early African American Portraiture and Illustrated Books

from Part IV - Illustration and the Narrative Form

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2021

Jasmine Nichole Cobb
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

This chapter scrutinizes early frontispieces contained within books by Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano and then proceeds to examine the illustrated antislavery books of Moses Roper and Henry Bibb (both of which also contain frontispieces as well as other types of illustrations). Although Roper’s book was published in 1837 and Bibb’s in 1849, this chapter argues that both men (being born in 1815 and having participated in the antislavery movement) were responding to the abject treatment of the enslaved in earlier antislavery materials. The words of the text interact with its visual optic to interpellate the reader and envision a figurative mode of agency and self-possession for the enslaved body and the freed Black subject. The chapter concludes with a forward glance at artworks by Kara Walker and Glen Ligon that also attempt to excavate (although in a more abstract way) the trace of a resistant visual tradition within African American literature and US visual culture.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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