Historian Brenna Greer’94 began her research centered on a particular image of Rosa Parks, and how Parks and other civil rights activists presented themselves in visual media. But she changed directions as she explored the role of non-activists in creating imagery of black freedom. She became interested in the work of black capitalists, who were not included in the civil rights story. That omission, she writes, “hindered understanding of the various ways African Americans have combatted racism and pursued first-class citizenship.” Black capitalists and entrepreneurs, such as John H. Johnson, who started the Ebony publishing empire, understood the power of the image-saturated post-war consumer society. Through advertising, photography, and magazines, they forged a close association between blackness and American citizenship. “Black capitalism and black activism have long been part of a single history,” writes author N.D.B. Connolly. “Represented now gives us that history—timely and transformative—in a single, important book.” Greer is the Knafel Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and assistant professor of history at Wellesley College.
Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship
By Brenna Wynn Greer’94
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019