Brenna Greer public lecture: Making Image Matter

Making Image Matter: Reconsidering Civil Rights Work in the Post World War II United States

A public lecture by Brenna Wynn Greer, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Wellesley College
Thursday, March 13, 2014, 4–6 pm
208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
1 Devonshire Place

CSUS and F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Speaker Series
Co-organized by the Centre for the Study of the United States and the Toronto Photography Seminar

What happens when we consider how non-activists contributed to the civil rights struggle? The lecture dramatizes this question by examining the image-making activities of two black entrepreneurs—publisher John H. Johnson and public relations guru Moss H. Kendrix. Through their commercial image-making and image-management ventures in the post-World War II decade, these black capitalists produced mainstream media representations of black people and black life essential to African Americans’ campaigns for racial equality and national belonging. Appreciation of their “civil rights work,” however, requires recognizing civil rights activity that was not necessarily grassroots or progressive, or explicitly political, which is crucial to understanding the course and efficacy of mid-twentieth century black civil rights politics.

Brenna Wynn Greer is a historian of race, gender, and culture in the twentieth-century United States who works at the intersections of African American, business, and visual culture history. She is currently at work on a manuscript entitled “Image Rights: Black Representation Politics and Civil Rights Work in the Postwar United States,” which explores the relationship between African Americans civil rights politics and their acts of making media representations and black life from the New Deal era through the early Cold War years. As an assistant professor in history at Wellesley College, she teaches U.S. history courses in topics of consumerism, visual culture, fashion, and social movements.