By Celeste-Marie Bernier

ISBN-10: 0748623566

ISBN-13: 9780748623563

ISBN-10: 0748630090

ISBN-13: 9780748630097

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Perhaps they started life as white commissioned artefacts but evolved to circulate within the black community. Vlach claims that these ‘miniature vessels’ which were ‘sculpted as human heads’ had a ‘symbolic, rather than utilitarian, purpose because of the care taken in modelling the very small bodies’ (Vlach, 1991: 34). Thompson’s assessment that they were perhaps ‘containers of magical substances’ suggests parallels with African art which jars with their intended use by whites (Thompson, 1983: 41).

Ball (1825–1904) ‘[F]ugitives are men of daring fortitude’ ‘The Virginians rushed in crowds to his room; all classes, white and black, bond and free sought to have their lineaments, stamped, by the artist [James P. Ball] who painted with the Sun’s rays’ (anon. 1855 in Willis, 1993: 250). Variously working in different parts of the United States and Liberia, West Africa, James P. Ball, Jules Lion and Augustus Washington were African American pioneers in the history of daguerreotyping. As the most daguerreotyped African American of the nineteenth century, the fugitive slave-turned-orator, Frederick Douglass, was enraptured by the opportunities for racial equality presented by this invention which would make it possible for ‘[m]en of all conditions’ to ‘see themselves as others see them’ (in Blassingame, vol.

Any research into African American artists living and working before 1900 proves that these years were far from ‘wasted’. On the contrary, evidence suggests that vast numbers of enslaved Africans became experts in countless professions following their arrival into the Americas and enforced deportation from diverse tribal groups and regions. Enslaved and free women, men and children drew on knowledge gained in Africa and the Americas to become quilters; dressmakers; potters; sculptors; daguerreotypists; printers and engravers; portrait, landscape and religious painters; ironworkers; carpenters; blacksmiths; silversmiths; musicians and much more.

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African American Visual Arts (British Association for American Studies (BAAS) Paperbacks) by Celeste-Marie Bernier


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