Emory conversation to focus on lives of unknown African American women

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Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell will join Emory University’s Kimberly Wallace-Sanders and moderator Rose Scott of WABE Radio for a conversation Wednesday, May 8 titled “Framing Shadows/Framing Lives,” an evening inspired by the new exhibition “Framing Shadows: Portraits of African American Nannies,” now on display at Emory’s Woodruff Library.

The exhibit, curated by Wallace-Sanders, associate professor of American studies and African American studies at Emory, provides insights on the experiences of the largely anonymous 19th and early 20th century African Americans who served as child care providers for white families. Through these rare portraits, visitors are invited to ask questions and look deeply at what these images reveal about the individuals and their relationships. 

The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with a reception and viewing of the exhibition, located in Schatten Gallery on level 3 of Woodruff Library.

The conversation with Campbell and Wallace-Sanders, moderated by WABE’s Scott, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Emory’s Cannon Chapel, a short walk away from the gallery.

The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; attendees should register at http://emorylib.info/shadows 

Campbell and Wallace-Sanders share an interest in African American photography and African American cultural studies. Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Campbell was a major force in the artistic and cultural life of New York City. She led the Studio Museum in Harlem, the country’s first accredited black fine arts museum, and is dean emerita of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In 2018, Campbell gave the keynote address at the historic Black Portraitures IV conference held at Harvard University. Wallace-Sanders attended Campbell’s lecture, “Terms of the Debater: The Battle for the Black Body, 19th Century to the Present,” and was inspired to launch the “Framing Shadows” exhibit.

Wallace-Sanders is currently completing work on a book titled “Framing Shadows: Portraits of Black Women with White Children.” Ranging from 1840 to 1920, it will be the largest collection of portrait photographs of its kind.

A natural sequence to her book, “Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender and Southern Memory,” Wallace-Sanders’ latest project represents a shift in her scholarly interests from the cultural representations of “the mammy” as a character, to the African American women (and often young girls) whose daily lives were focused on caring for white children. 

Framing Shadows: Portraits of Nannies from the Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection” is on display at Emory, free and open to the public, until Jan. 5, 2020.