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

Edited by Ilisa Barbash, Molly Rogers, and Deborah Willis
Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Photographic essay by Carrie Mae Weems Copublished by Aperture and Peabody Museum Press

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6 ½ x 9 ¼ in. (16.5 x 23.5 cm) 488 pages, 230 four-color and black-and-white images Clothbound 978-1-59711-478-3 August 2020

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To Make Their Own Way in the World is a profound consideration of some of the most challenging images in the history of photography: fifteen daguerreotypes of Alfred, Delia, Drana, Fassena, Jack, Jem, and Renty—men and women of African descent who were enslaved in South Carolina. Photographed by Joseph T. Zealy for Harvard professor Louis Agassiz in 1850, they were rediscovered at Harvard’s Peabody Museum in 1976. This groundbreaking multidisciplinary volume features essays by prominent scholars who explore such topics as the identities of the people depicted in the daguerreotypes, the close relationship between photography and race, and visual narratives of slavery and its lasting effects. With over two hundred illustrations, including new photography by 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 (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.

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