Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow / Edition 1

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Signs of the Times traces the career of Jim Crow signs–simplified in cultural memory to the “colored/white” labels that demarcated the public spaces of the American South–from their intellectual and political origins in the second half of the nineteenth century through their dismantling by civil rights activists in the 1960s and '70s. In this book, Elizabeth Abel assembles a variegated archive of segregation signs and photographs that translated a set of regional practices into a national conversation about race.

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Editorial Reviews

African American Review
“An impressive study of the visual politics of compulsory race segregation in the United States.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Abel complements stunning photos of a sometimes forgotten world - where "White Only" and "Colored Only" signs were a disturbing legal and social reality - with an in-depth scholarly examination.”
“A rich contribution to American studies, Signs of the Times reanimates the critical conversation about racial formation by turning away from physiological signs and turning to literal ones.”
Left History
“Abel’s accomplishment is formidable, and all students of the American past owe her a tremendous debt for her careful work in creating this paradoxically striking ‘archive of the ordinary’.”
New Books In History
“Fine and thoughtful.”
American Studies - Ulrich Adelt
“Engaging and intellectually stimulating. . . . [Abel] has done invaluable work.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520261839
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/6/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Abel is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author and editor of several books, including Writing and Sexual Difference, Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis, and (with Barbara Christian and Helene Moglen) Female Subjects in Black and White (UC Press).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Preface xvii

Introduction: Jim Crow's Cultural Turns 2

Part I Inscriptions

1 American Graffiti: The Social Life of Jim Crow Signs 33

2 The Signs of Race in the Language of Photography 62

3 Cultural Memory and the Conditions of Visibility: The Circulation of Jim Crow Photographs 103

Part II Race and Space

4 Restroom Doors and Drinking Fountains: Perspective, Mobility, and the Fluid Grounds of Race and Gender 123

5 The Eyeball and the Wall: Eating, Seeing, and the Nation 160

Part III Still and Motion Pictures

6 Double Take: Photography, Cinema, and the Segregated Theater 195

7 Upside Down and Inside Out: Camera Work, Spectatorship, and the Chronotope of the Colored Balcony 217

Part IV Dismantling Jim Crow

8 Remaking Racial Signs: Activism and Photography in the Theater of the Sit-Ins 251

Afterword: Contemporary Turns 292

Notes 301

Select Bibliography 357

Index 379

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