Delia's Tears


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

Race, Science, and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America

Molly Rogers; Foreword by David W. Blight

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $58.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

In 1850 seven South Carolina slaves were photographed at the request of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz to provide evidence of the supposed biological inferiority of Africans. Lost for many years, the photographs were rediscovered in the attic of Harvard’s Peabody Museum in 1976. In the first narrative history of these images, Molly Rogers tells the story of the photographs, the people they depict, and the men who made and used them. Weaving together the histories of race, science, and photography in nineteenth-century America, Rogers explores the invention and uses of photography, the scientific theories the images were intended to support and how these related to the race politics of the time, the meanings that may have been found in the photographs, and the possible reasons why they were “lost” for a century or more. Each image is accompanied by a brief fictional vignette about the subject’s life as imagined by Rogers; these portraits bring the seven subjects to life, adding a fascinating human dimension to the historical material.

Molly Rogers is a writer and independent scholar of American history and the history and theory of photography. She is associate director of the Center for the Humanities at New York University and the co-editor of To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes.

"In a book that is at once sensitive, bold, and imaginative, Rogers delivers a deep history of the causes, creation, and consequences of these now famous photographs. . . . If there ever can be a shared humanity with a shared historical memory, perhaps it can only emerge from seeing such evidence of its most brutal denial."—David W. Blight, from the Foreword

"Through Delia's Tears, a beguiling mixture of history and imagination, we see that the poisonous allure of racial thinking, often posing as reasoned objectivity, has always blurred our vision. This is a story that is as beautiful as it is sad."-Jonathan Scott Holloway, Yale University

“[Rogers’] well-researched history paints a rich panorama of the mental world of slavery.”

-- Publishers Weekly

“Rogers begins each chapter with a vignette imagining the lives of the slaves who were photographed as she explores the intersections of power, ideology, and imaging... fascinating.” 


"Rogers succeeds in humanizing photographs that were taken not to bring out the individual qualities of those photographed but in an attempt to confirm theories of human inequality."—Reginald Horsman, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"[An] excellent work."—J. D. Smith, Choice

Selected as an Editor’s Choice by Booklist as one of the best titles published in 2010

ISBN: 9780300260199
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
384 pages, 7 x 9
36 b/w illus.
Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

David Eltis and David Richardson; Foreword by David Brion D

View details
Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition

Edited by Robert Harms, Bernard K. Freamon, and David W.

View details
My Bondage and My Freedom

Frederick Douglass; Introduction and Notes by David W.

View details
Who Speaks for the Negro?

Robert Penn Warren; Introduction by David W. Blight

View details