Civil Rights Childhood


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I was taught that all of the work being done was for a better life for the children so we too had a responsibility. I found that research on Black Arts Movement childhood and interactions with Kali were the most fascinating dimension of my research. From Little Journeys into Storyland: Reynolds and Charles L. What do you see as the future of childhood studies and histories? Of civil rights visual culture? I think we are in a moment right now of thoughtful debate about the political implications of visual representation, particularly in terms of images of black youth.

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When we engage photographs of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, or other young people, we recognize the stakes of imagining black life through the photograph. When making sense of images, civil rights activists of the current moment invoke the narratives a viewer brings to a picture of a black child, particularly in terms of childhood innocence and possibility; through language, image selection, and editing, these activists shape stories about black childhood that can articulate civil rights struggle. This activist construction of word and image is not a new phenomenon within black experience.

I think that scholars will continue to include childhood in the conversation about the scope and impact of civil rights representation.

Picturing Liberation in African American Photobooks

We remember that children—whether Emmett Till or Trayvon Martin, or whether child protestors at Selma or young audiences for texts of the Black Arts Movement—have been at the heart of representations of civil rights action. Can you briefly describe your book? Less than a decade later, images from the bombing of the church in Birmingham, which killed four young girls, were linked to children as martyrs in the struggle for civil rights in the nation.

Capshaw traces the history of photobooks focused on black children from the s, examining their use in both fiction and non-fiction. Children are seen playing, in school, and with their families.

Civil Rights Childhood

As the civil rights movement began gaining momentum in the s and s, its leaders began to visualize the reality of black life through the use of photographs, including the violence against children, something that would help spur activism of emerging leaders. She found that the book A Pictorial History of the Negro in America by Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer is a volume that can be linked directly to inspiring social activism in a major event in the civil rights movement.

I was able to interview one of the four men that launched the sit-ins, Joseph McNeil. It was a fantastic experience to hear him talk about how that book helped change the world. In her research for the book, Capshaw also discovered that many of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC said that seeing the photos of Emmett Till when they were young was a factor that propelled them into activism.

One of her hopes for her book is to prompt more interest in books aimed at covering topics of diversity and photography.

Booker T. Washington - Civil Rights Activist

The critical response to Civil Rights Childhood seems to be headed in that direction. Framing Freedom in Mississippi 4. The Black Arts Movement: Childhood as Liberatory Process 5. Blurring the Childhood Image: Representations of the Civil Rights Narrative.

Civil Rights Childhood

The effect of Civil Rights photobooks in transforming the social consciousness of young people. Legibility and cultural memory are contests of power. As we recall the landmark events of —the victories of the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration Act, as well as the losses of Malcolm X and the riots in Watts—we can also seek out stories of Civil Rights mobilization that are, perhaps, more local and intimate.

Turning the Lens on Civil Rights Childhood: An interview with Katharine Capshaw. University of Minnesota Press Coming soon.


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