Seeing through Race (Paperback)

A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography

By Martin A. Berger, David J. Garrow (Foreword by)

University of California Press, 9780520268647, 264pp.

Publication Date: May 2, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (5/1/2011)

List Price: 34.95*
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Seeing through Race is a boldly original reinterpretation of the iconic photographs of the black civil rights struggle. Martin A. Berger’s provocative and groundbreaking study shows how the very pictures credited with arousing white sympathy, and thereby paving the way for civil rights legislation, actually limited the scope of racial reform in the 1960s. Berger analyzes many of these famous images—dogs and fire hoses turned against peaceful black marchers in Birmingham, tear gas and clubs wielded against voting-rights marchers in Selma—and argues that because white sympathy was dependent on photographs of powerless blacks, these unforgettable pictures undermined efforts to enact—or even imagine—reforms that threatened to upend the racial balance of power.

About the Author

Martin A. Berger is Professor and Director of the Visual Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of Man Made: Thomas Eakins and the Construction of Gilded Age Manhood and Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture, both from UC Press. David J. Garrow is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Praise For Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography

“Brilliant, provocative study of photographs of the US civil rights movement . . . . A first-rate book!”

— Choice

“Fascinating. . . . Berger’s historical reconstruction is convincing.”

— Ariella Azoulay

"A well-researched and nuanced analysis of iconic civil rights images. . . . A compelling work."

— Lakesia D. Johnson

“A comprehensive study of the language in which editors, reporters, and photographers shaped and demarcated the period’s field of vision.”

— Ariella Azoulay, Tel Aviv University