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Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Arabella Chapman: Portraits

We prepared to study the Chapman albums by examining a variety of black women's early portraits. Most interesting were the choices women made about pose, clothing, and props. These details reflected how they hoped to be seen and brought women like Arabella into a tradition of black women's portraiture. Here, ...
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Learning to Read a Photo.

Often our first response to old photos is to remark upon their beauty and admire their technical qualities. As Boseong Yun explains, we must not stop there. Photographs like those in the Chapman albums demand a much closer reading, one that goes beyond what we might know from other historical ...
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Like Fishing.

The start of any research project might begin like a fishing trip; you've got your rod and bait in one hand and dreams of catching the big one in the other. Here, Deja Valrie draws upon a fishing metaphor to explain how she persisted with her research for The Arabella ...
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Closing doors.

Some of the most compelling images in the Chapman albums remain a mystery. Many students took time to examine a single photo and explain its intrigue. Robyn Bryan describes how she came to the image titled "Sophie." Its style and form drew her in, and soon she longed to know more ...
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An Act of Justice.

When working on the Chapman albums, we each developed our own relationship to the albums and the images they contain. That relationship might be a practical one, such as having a task to complete. But often, after time spent with the images, a researcher's mind turns to bolder purposes. In this essay, Chavon Taylor ...
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What is Frederick Douglass Doing Here?

A photo album can appear to be a random collection of images, until we discover some important context. With this, we might uncover the logic of those who assembled them. In this essay, Marie Georger explains how she found a connection between Arabella Chapman and the image of Frederick Douglass. It's Friday, ...
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Who is She?

At first, Arabella’s face was unfamiliar to us. Only over time did we learn to how recognize her among nearly 100 photographs. Here, Dominique Horne reflects on her earliest encounter with two (nearly) identical images of Arabella. Dominique shows how close reading of images was a first step toward unraveling the album’s mysteries ...
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