UI Professor speaks on slavery and photography for the Smithsonian Institution

click to enlarge Matthew Fox-Amato
Matthew Fox-Amato


The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery will feature an online talk at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 11 by Matthew Fox-Amato, an assistant professor of history at the University of Idaho.

Fox-Amato’s talk, “Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in the Antebellum South,” will focus on how enslaved people from the 1840s to the end of the Civil War shaped their identities and social ties through photography. Slave narratives, newspapers and studio records reveal that some enslaved individuals bought images from local photographers, stowed likenesses of sold family members in their cabins, and carried photographs of family with them. The talk examines what their photographic practices meant, especially in relation to the violent disruptions of the domestic slave trade. 

Fox-Amato’s book “Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America,” explores how the new technology of photography altered people’s perceptions about slavery during the era. It was used by both pro- and anti-slavery factions. Inland 360 published a story about the book in 2020.

The talk is free. People must register in advance on the National Portrait Gallery’s website to receive a link and can do so via the shortened link, bit.ly/enduringimages.

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