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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Old Silver Readings: Mythology, Portraits, and Booker T. Washington


Normative historical narratives of Booker T. Washington continually underestimate the genius of this politically savvy educator.  Despite the recent groundswell of interest in photography in the history of education, only a handful of scholars have excavated BTW’s meticulously produced portraits in light of his impact on North American civil rights.  Washington’s images did not simply accentuate his message, they possessed an indelible mythological argument in themselves, reifying a time and place not yet achieved in full by his African-American community.  While his Tuskegee Institute mostly accommodated the temperaments of White America, his photographs dissolved the very boundaries between black and white.

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