Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass (1817–1895) escaped his bondage in 1838 and became the most persuasive orator for the cause of abolition, among other reformist causes. In addition to founding a newspaper and penning three autobiographies, he lectured extensively before and during the Civil War, "thundering against slavery," in the words of W. E. B. Du Bois. One of the first critical theorists of photography, Douglass delivered multiple lectures on the topic between 1861 and 1865, including "Pictures and Progress," on the medium’s ability to render subjective consciousness in an objective form. He advocated for photography’s potential to counteract distorted representations of African Americans and reverse the "social death" caused by slavery. Douglass posed for a series of influential portraits over several decades and circulated his image broadly in multiple photographic formats.
Hermine B. Rubel; William Rubel
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Facing the Light: Historic American Portrait Daguerreotypes," Friday, September 22, 1978 - Monday, January 15, 1979.
Crocker Art Museum. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 9, 1982–February 21, 1982.
Achenbach Graphic Arts Council. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 1, 1984–February 1, 1984.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from the Rubel Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1, 1999–September 19, 1999.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Portraits: A Century of Photographs," September 10, 2002–January 13, 2003.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Old Faces and Places: American Photographs, 1845-1870," February 3, 2004–April 25, 2004.
New Bedford Whaling Museum. "Freedom and Bondage: Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville in New Bedford," May 1, 2005–October 1, 2005.
Pfister, Harold Francis. Facing the Light: Historic American Portrait Daguerreotypes. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1978. no. 105.
Thackrey, Sean. Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 1982. pl. 30.
Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. 1st ed. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984. no. 50.
Majestic in His Wrath: A Pictorial Life of Frederick Douglass. Washington: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1995. p. x.