African American Periodicals and the Transition to Visual Intercourse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The complex interaction between the visual and print culture is central to transitions in definitions and perceptions of Black personhood and mid-century African American literature. Marshaled by race science and criminology, and underwriting the emergence of the periodical as media form in the United States through its advertisements for fugitives and enslaved Africans for sale, visuality was imbricated with print. Autumn Womack approaches visuality in the Anglo-African Magazine through its statistical essays in order to contend that the magazine was brokering a transition from a text-based articulation of Black freedom to one figured in and through visuality. The “visual grammar” that resulted, she argues, presented Black freedom as accomplished and aspirational. Womack thus further elaborates the scholarly contention that Black American practitioners of visuality ranged beyond those using photography, such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, to those debating the visual’s affordances in written texts, including Martin Delany, William J. Wilson, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Jacobs, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Louisa Picquet, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington. She argues that the Anglo-African Magazine explored and reframed the conceptual and visual dimensions of Black freedom by pursuing what optic strategies and practices it both demanded and engendered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAfrican American Literature In Transition, 1850-1865
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781108647847
ISBN (Print)9781108427487
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


  • African American authors
  • African American history and culture
  • African American literary criticism
  • African American literature
  • Black press
  • Periodicals
  • Statistics
  • The Anglo-African Magazine
  • Visual culture

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