Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photographs of Ulrich Bonnell Phillips

By Collins, Lisa Gail | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photographs of Ulrich Bonnell Phillips


Collins, Lisa Gail, The Journal of Southern History


Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photographs of Ulrich Bonnell Phillips. By Patricia Beilis Bixel and John David Smith. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. [xxii], 111. $29.95, ISBN 978-1-61117-105-1.)

While engaged in their respective projects related to the renowned and controversial historian of slavery and the antebellum South, Patricia Beilis Bixel and John David Smith came across a small box amid the Ulrich Bonnell Phillips Papers at Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library (Phillips was a member of the Yale faculty from 1929 until his early death in 1934). Containing sixty lantern slides--many of them images included in Phillips's popular study of slavery, Life and Labor in the Old South (1929)--this cache of photographic images was significantly expanded in 2006 when a larger box of images belonging to Phillips--"377 prints, 122 negatives, and 32 additional lantern slides"--was discovered through Bixel and Smith's diligence and added to the holdings (p. ix).

In Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photographs of Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, the authors examine this newly expanded archive of photographic images obtained and maintained by Phillips during his career--the contents of both boxes as well as photographs found elsewhere within his materials. Bixel and Smith consider why Phillips collected these images, how he used them, and what they tell us about the prominent proslavery historian. Drawing on their mastery of Phillips's published and unpublished writings, they consider, for the first time, this unique archive--Phillips's working collection of images that he used for reference, publication, and lecturing--within the interpretive context of his thinking in print.

For the book, Bixel and Smith have selected eighty-seven images for reproduction from the approximately six hundred images (lantern slides, prints, and negatives) now held at Yale. In making their selections, they considered the images as both texts and objects, and they chose photographs "that reflect Phillips's interpretation of the South but also open themselves to alternative readings of their subjects and the region" (p. …

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