The many faces of Frederick Douglass

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-28 00:10Z by Steven

The many faces of Frederick Douglass

Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York

Jim Memmott, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

Portrait of Frederick Douglass taken November 3, 1882 by John Howe Kent, 24 State Street, Rochester, New York
(Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, University of Rochester River Campus Libraries)

In November 1882, Frederick Douglass, escaped slave, orator, abolitionist, writer, lecturer, was back in Rochester, the city where he had lived for nearly 30 years, to give a talk.

Not surprisingly, he found time to visit the studio of Rochester photographer John Howe Kent to pose for a portrait.

The photograph, which is among the collection of the University of Rochester, shows a white-haired, bearded and contemplative Douglass. He looks away from the camera, his brow furrowed, his eyes on a distant prize.

According to the authors of a rich and rewarding book, the recently published Picturing Frederick Douglass, Kent’s picture became a lasting image of Douglass. It was used as the illustration facing the title page of the last edition of Douglass’s autobiography. And it was reproduced again and again on monuments, on a postage stamp and in drawings.

As the subtitle of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American makes clear, the Rochester picture is just one of many of Douglass taken during a time when photography was coming of age.

The authors of the book, John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd and Celeste-Marie Bernier, have identified 160 separate photographs of Douglass, a handful taken in Rochester, and all republished in the book.

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,