The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship

Product Details
New York University Press
Publish Date
8.2 X 10.1 X 0.8 inches | 2.1 pounds

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About the Author
Deborah Willis is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, and Africana Studies. Willis is the author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers - 1840 to the Present; Let Your Motto be Resistance - African American Portraits; Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery with Barbara Krauthamer; and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs. Both Envisioning Emancipation and Michelle Obama received NAACP Image Awards.
"In a troubled age, when the past is increasingly called into question, we are all history buffs now. To that end, this remarkable book fills an enormous gap in our collective understanding of the past, a page-turner that will break your heart. Willis, professor and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, centers extraordinary and largely unknown images of Black Civil War soldiers within a reported narrative that highlights the enormous hardships they faced and the contributions they made. She makes history feel like a family album."-- "Fortune Magazine, named one of the "Best Books of 2021, so far""
"The book aims to bring these stoic portraits of black soldiers to life - with personal stories, to family members back home, and interviews with historians and personal observations from a skilled photography expert. It's what Willis calls the African American experience, as well as resilience."-- "The Guardian"
"The scholar, author, curator, and photographer Deborah Willis makes a fascinating contribution to that conversation with The Black Civil War Soldier, her new book from NYU Press. In it, Willis gives a face and a story to some of the war's most overlooked figures, from the Black men fighting for their freedom from slavery to the women who educated and tended to those men on the battlefield."-- ""
"Memorable images abound in [this] historical catalog of American photography. Essential...a book that invites rereading."-- "STARRED Kirkus Review"
"[S]heds light on the experience of black Civil War soldier through never-seen-before photographs from the 19th century."-- "Daily Mail"
"The book reminds us that even the ultimate fight for freedom -- when Blacks and some whites were on the same side -- equality even then was barely a notion."-- "New York Daily News"
"Willis, department chair for photography and imaging at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, had noticed a dearth of images of Black servicemen from the era. For The Black Civil War Soldier, she pulled together photographs, letters, and diary entries to shed light on not only what Black servicemen were experiencing, but also what Black teachers, Black doctors, Black children, and other members of the community were."-- "Philadelphia Inquirer"
"Together, this narrative and the photographs make an astounding book that show an often-little-told human side of the War Between the States."-- "Goshen News"
"At a time when victory in the Civil War was anything but assured, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass urged the North to arm African American soldiers to fight against the forces that had enslaved them in the Confederate South. In doing so, he recognized the vital visual argument for citizenship that a uniformed Black man would make with 'the brass letter, US' on his belt and an 'eagle on his button.' Now, in this breathtaking volume, the scholar Deborah Willis reveals to us the fullness of their humanity through a photographic record she interprets through the paper trail they left behind. At once intimate and panoramic, The Black Civil War Soldier is both a major contribution to Civil War studies and an album of our ancestors' journey at the critical hour of American history that belongs to all of us as the descendants of their sacrifice."-- "Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University"
"In the unmatched research presented in The Black Civil War Soldier, a wealth of lush images, majestic fashion, narrative elements, and crucial pictorial details--books, uniforms, guns among them--perform for the camera a telling contradiction to the underlying horror embedded in the text, and points to the formidable role of photography that Dr. Deborah Willis has long championed. Through the lives of these soldiers, sailors, doctors, and nurses as well as the stories of cooks, teachers, wives, and lovers, Dr. Willis weaves a compelling narrative through the photographic record where courage and activism, or what she has called 'difficulty and desire, ' shines through"-- "Kellie Jones, author of South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s."
"Deborah Willis's vivid accounts of Black soldiers' sacrifices on the battlefield and their compassion for those on the home front make this book a must read for all Americans. Skillfully employing photographs and other printed materials as equal sources of history, Willis's nuanced depictions capture the urgent desire for freedom and full citizenship of more than 190,000 Black soldiers and sailors who volunteered for the Union. In The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship, Deborah Willis once again gives us a deeply researched, visually arresting, and textured chronicle of Black people at a crucial turning point in US history."-- "Francille Rusan Wilson, author of The Segregated Scholars: Black Social Scientists and the Creation of Black Labor Studies, 1890-1950 "
"The legendary photographer, curator, and historian Deb Willis has been shifting the way I see and think of images and historical representation for decades. The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict, her gorgeous and meticulously researched photobook, is expansive, yet it also manages to convey the intimacy of a beloved family heirloom. It is an impassioned tribute to America's Black soldiers and their families during the Civil War. It is also an insistence that we consider the many ramifications of conflict and racism. This is a monumental work, as well as a monument to the undying quest for freedom."-- "Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the Booker Prize"
"Enacts a visual curation of black Civil War history as few besides Willis are so expertly capable of. As deeply reflective about the telling of African American history using images, and given to a conception of African American men and women as "soldiers" within a strenuous physical and moral campaign against slavery, The Black Civil War Soldier is the handsomest picture book and more."-- "Civil War Book Review"
"The Black Civil War Soldier's rich assemblage of tangible evidence and memory provides both material culture readers and general audiences an expanded resource for absorbing and reflecting upon this history."-- "Winterthur Portfolio"
"Combining period images, selections from the letters, diaries, memoirs, and other writings of men and women from the period, and a well-written narrative text, Prof. Willis has produced an excellent look at the Civil War and its aftermath, concentrating on the role of African Americans in military and naval service."-- "The NYMAS Review"