Controlling Black Women's Bodies
Assignment Proposals now due on Canvas

fugitivity = the artful escape of objectification


Fugitive Slave Act = part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by Congress on September 18, 1850 and required citizens to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying escaped slaves, which was arguably the inception of policing in the U.S.

Meredith Bergmann, Phillis Wheatley portrayed as part of the Boston Women's Memorial, 2003.











"The Slave That Reads is the First to Run Away"

In 1791, enslaved workers in Saint Domingue (Haiti) took up arms and revolted against the plater class. Many of the overthrown white enslavers relocated to the U.S. and resumed their activities while lobbying for tyrannical controls over the Black population.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Study of a Black Man, 1808











Ethnographic Studies

ethnogoraphy = descriptive anthropology


Malayan Male
John Lamprey, Front and Profile Views of a Malayan Male, c. 1868 – 1869.











Couple from New Caldonia, 19th century
Photographer Unknown, Brinjara and Wife from The People of India, 1868.











The French term "soussou" does not literally translate to English. Deriving from "sou," meaning coin, and in the context of a postcard, this childish slang term can be understood as: "Here's a little something from Africa for you."
Edmond Fortier, Senegal Woman, c. 1910.
Edmond Fortier, Senegal Woman, c. 1910.











Photographer Unknown, African Woman, c. 1920. Carte-de-Visite.











Sawtche "Sarah" (Saartjie) Baartman c. 1790 - 1815
Khoïkhoï woman early 19th century?
Parisian poster c. 1814
Sara Baartman's Journey











Lithograph of Nicolas Huet le Jeune’s painting of Sawtche Baartman, 1815.











Attributed to Frederick Christian Lewis, Portrait of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman a.k.a. The Hottentot Venus, 1810.

Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman a.k.a. The Hottentot Venus, early 19th century, Carte-de-Visite.











“'The Hottentot Venus,' because they wanted to witness—ostensibly through the fact of her large protruding buttocks—a woman who was thought to embody 'the essential black, the lowest rung on the great chain of being.' Juxtaposition of the words 'Hottentot' and 'Venus' conjured up images of the ivory-skinned Roman goddess of love and beauty only to draw attention to the irreconcilable gap between the mythic muse and the African woman, for Baartman was thought by many to represent 'the antithesis of European sexual mores and beauty.' By putting down money to view Baartman, European viewers revealed their faith in the visual; they were eager to link the myth of African inferiority with a visible representation of this difference.' Collins, "Historic Retrievals: Confronting Visual Evidence and the Imaging of Truth"
George Loftus, La Venus Hottentote, c. 1814.











So-Called Hottentote print (left) and painting (right) c. 1815.











Baartman was likely forced into prostitution and died in 1815 at the age of 26 of an unknown ailment, possibly smallpox, though some sources suggest syphilis. Georges Cuvier obtained her body, conducted an extensive dissection and had a mold made of the corpse which was exhibited at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris until 1974. "Demands from the Khoïkhoï (racistly called 'Hottentot' by the Afrikaners), supported by the post-Apartheid South African government, will be met by the French government in order to send back Baartman’s remains to be buried on her native land" (Collins).
Baartman's body was returned to South Africa and interred in 2018.
Sarah Baartman's body in Paris, unknown date.











"For nineteenth-century positivists, photography doubly fulfilled the Enlightenment dream of a universal language: the universal mimetic language of the camera yielded up a much higher, cerebral truth, a truth that could be uttered in the universal abstract language of mathematics. For this promised more than a wealth of detail; it promised to reduce nature to its geometrical essence. Presumably then, the archive could provide a standard physiognomic guage of the criminal, could assign each criminal body a relative and quantitative position within a larger ensemble." - Allan Sekula in "The Body and the Archive"

20th Century California Inmantes











Violent Criminals Composite
Criminal Profile, 1914
Francis Galton, Violent Criminals Compositie, 1885.











The Jewish Type
Henry Pickering Bowditch, Twelve Boston Physicians and Their Composite Portrait,  c. 1894.
Francis Galton, The Jewish Type, 1883.
Displayed during the First International Eugenics Congress
eugenics = Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton, the study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable











Like Ingres's Grande Odalisque in Europe, Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave evokes Chardin's universally recognized Georgian beauties and Blumenbach's "beautiful skull," specifically "demonstrat[ing] Orientalist whiteness in its material, the white Italian marble so critical to notions of Greek beauty." Powers' sculpture would tour the U.S. and become the most popular sculpture in nineteenth-century America (Painter, 27).
Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave, 1846.

Jean Augsute Dominique Ingres, Grande Odalisque, 1814.











According to Paul Gilroy, long before ‘‘scientific racism gained its intellectual grip,’’ Hegel ‘‘denied blacks the ability to appreciate the necessary mystery involved in the creation of truly symbolic art’’ (Collins, 8).
Nadar, Maria, 1856 - 1859.












Nona Faustine, From Her Body Sprang Their Greatest Wealth, 2016. Wall Street, New York.

Nona Faustine, Over My Dead Body, 2013. Tweed Courthouse, New York.











Nona Faustine, They Tagged the Land with Trophies and Institutions from Their Rapes and Conquests, 2013

Nona Faustine, Isabelle Leferts House, 2016











Josephine Baker, "Banana Dance," 1920s











"These people—black visual artists—make things and make visions. Their job, their goal is to re-envision vision. What have they ever done to deserve our contempt? I think we need to begin to understand how regimes of visu- ality enforce racism, how they literally hold it in place" (Collins, 1919).

Beyonce, All the Single Ladies, 2008
Nicki Minaj, Anaconda, 2014












John T. Biggers, The Contribution of Negro Women in American Life and Education, 1953.
Oil on plaster, Houston, TX.