Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century

Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century

by Sara Blair
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691130876

ISBN-13: 9780691130873

Pub. Date: 08/27/2007

Publisher: Princeton University Press

The Harlem riot of 1935 not only signaled the end of the Harlem Renaissance; it made black America's cultural capital an icon for the challenges of American modernity. Luring photographers interested in socially conscious, journalistic, and aesthetic representation, post-Renaissance Harlem helped give rise to America's full-blown image culture and its definitive

Overview

The Harlem riot of 1935 not only signaled the end of the Harlem Renaissance; it made black America's cultural capital an icon for the challenges of American modernity. Luring photographers interested in socially conscious, journalistic, and aesthetic representation, post-Renaissance Harlem helped give rise to America's full-blown image culture and its definitive genre, documentary. The images made there in turn became critical to the work of black writers seeking to reinvent literary forms. Harlem Crossroads is the first book to examine their deep, sustained engagements with photographic practices.

Arguing for Harlem as a crossroads between writers and the image, Sara Blair explores its power for canonical writers, whose work was profoundly responsive to the changing meanings and uses of photographs. She examines literary engagements with photography from the 1930s to the 1970s and beyond, among them the collaboration of Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarava, Richard Wright's uses of Farm Security Administration archives, James Baldwin's work with Richard Avedon, and Lorraine Hansberry's responses to civil rights images. Drawing on extensive archival work and featuring images never before published, Blair opens strikingly new views of the work of major literary figures, including Ralph Ellison's photography and its role in shaping his landmark novel Invisible Man, and Wright's uses of camera work to position himself as a modernist and postwar writer. Harlem Crossroads opens new possibilities for understanding the entangled histories of literature and the photograph, as it argues for the centrality of black writers to cultural experimentation throughout the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691130873
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/27/2007
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
978,113
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Preface xvii
Introduction: A Riot of Images: Harlem and the Pursuit of Modernity 1
Chapter One: Documenting Harlem: Images and Afterlives 19
Chapter Two: From Black Voices to Black Power: Richard Wright and the Trial of Documentary 61
Chapter Three: Ralph Ellison, Photographer 112
Chapter Four: Photo-Text Capital: James Baldwin, Richard Avedon, and the Uses of Harlem 160
Chapter Five: Dodging and Burning: The Writer and the Image after the Civil Rights Era 198
Coda: Looking Back: Toni Morrison and the Return to Plato's Cave 252
Abbreviations 265
Notes 267
Bibliography 317
Index 341

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