To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes

Photographic essay by Carrie Mae Weems

Edited by Ilisa Barbash, Molly Rogers, and Deborah Willis
Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Co-published by Aperture and the Peabody Museum Press

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6 ½ x 9 ¼ in. (16.5 x 23.5 cm) 464 pages, 230 four-color and black-and-white images Clothbound 978-1-59711-478-3 June 2020
To Make Their Own Way in the World is a profound consideration of some of the most challenging images in the early history of photography: fifteen daguerreotypes made in 1850 of Alfred, Delia, Drana, Fassena, Jack, Jem, and Renty—men and women of African descent who were enslaved in South Carolina. Made by photographer Joseph T. Zealy and rediscovered at Harvard’s Peabody Museum in 1976, the photographs have been the subject of intense and widespread study. Multidisciplinary and deeply collaborative, To Make Their Own Way in the World features essays by prominent scholars who explore topics ranging from the photographs’ historical context and the “science” of race to the ways in which photography created a visual narrative of slavery and its effects. With more than two hundred illustrations, including new photography by contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems, this book frames the Zealy daguerreotypes as works of urgent engagement.

Ilisa Barbash is visual anthropology curator at Harvard’s Peabody Museum and author of Where the Roads All End: Photography and Anthropology in the Kalahari (Peabody Museum Press, 2016).

Molly Rogers is associate director of the Center for the Humanities, New York University, and author of Delia’s Tears: Race, Science and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2010).

Deborah Willis is chair of photography and imaging at Tisch School of the Arts and coauthor of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (2013).

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.

American artist, Carrie Mae Weems is an influential American artist and author of The Hampton Project (Aperture, 2001) and Kitchen Table Series (2016).