President Barack Obama signifies both the power of the institutional presidency and the legacy of black freedom struggles. His post in the White House provides an opportunity to think through the process by which these themes became intertwined and the manner in which the US presidency became a site for resolving the black freedom struggle. This essay traces the routes through which the US state, in the form of the presidency, appropriated black images to suppress autonomous black freedom struggles and promote less threatening racial narratives. It critiques the production and reproduction of black freedom imagery for state utility. The materials investigated reveal the value of black visibility to state interests at key moments in US race relations—namely, during slavery, enfranchisement, and national elections.
A More Perfect Union: Black Freedoms, White Houses
Jasmine Nichole Cobb is assistant professor in the Department of African and African American Studies and the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University. She writes on visual theory and black representation. She is the author of Picture Freedom: Remaking Black Visuality in the Early Nineteenth Century (2015).
Jasmine Nichole Cobb; A More Perfect Union: Black Freedoms, White Houses. Public Culture 1 January 2016; 28 (1 (78)): 63–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3325016
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