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On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (Pinpoints)

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Editorial Review

What meaning does the American public attach to images involving key black political, social, and cultural figures? At a time when photography has become a primary means of documenting historical progress, what is the representational currency that these images carry? How do racial icons circulate and acquire meaning within the broader public? The answers to these questions will change the way you think about the next photograph that you see depicting a racial event or black celebrity or public figure. On Racial Icons looks at visual culture and race in the United States, in particular the significance of photography to document black public life. It examines America's fascination with representing and seeing race in a myriad of contexts as emblematic of national and racial progress at best, or as a gauge of a collective racial wound. Investigating the concept of the icon in the context of photographic history, national and cultural histories, and racial relations, Nicole Fleetwood focuses a sustained lens on how racial icons circulate and acquire meaning within the broader public. Concise in length, On Racial Icons offers readers a quick overview of the uses of photography to capture shifting race relations. Each chapter spotlights a different set of iconic images and sector of American public life. Throughout, Fleetwood guides readers through several familiar and iconic photographs and asks them to consider revealing examples, including the historical weight and racialised violence associated with images of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; the political, aesthetic, and cultural shifts marked by the rise of such black pop stars as Diana Ross in the early 1970s; and the power and precarity of such black sports icons as Serena Williams and LeBron James.




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