The Post (Race) Cards

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During the first part of the course, we have looked at the legal and ethical questions surrounding appropriation, particularly in regards to ownership. However, what the project "Postcards" is primarly concerned with is another ethical dilemma posed by appropriation -- that of historically terrible images

The reframing of the image hopes to interrogate a number of things. First, through the series of rendering done to the photographs, including tinting, coloring, scaling and layering, the reframing of the same image is an attempt to move from the spectacle of the hanged men in these pictures and instead turn one's gaze toward the crowd itself. The modes of address and publics that were created not only in the spectacle of lynching, but also through the production and circulation of these photographs turned postcards that were bought as postcards and sent to individuals all across the country. Such a reframing perhaps allows us to think about the modes of spectatorship inherent in such photographs. Hoping to move away from a further exaggeration of the spectacle of torture, the mob surrounding each of these events is important to also look at in terms of spectacle.

Another line of interrogation that this project hopes to explore are the ethical implications of using such images. What does it mean to appropriate these images and what kinds of potentials do such images carry and/or refuse? Can we think about the appropriation of such images in a way that doesn't fall into the traps of representation and erasing history?

Finally, what "Postcards" hopes to question are not only modes of viewing inherent in photograph and the spectacle, but also its relation to consumption. "Postcards" asks, what are the modes of consumption that such controversial or oppressive representations engage in not only in viewing but also in the circulation fo such images? WHat does it mean to consume such images and more importantly, how does such consumption constantly

How does one begin to reframe an image with such historical and emotional weight?


Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson, and Elias Clayton. On June 15, 1920, when three black circus workers were attacked and lynched by a mob in Duluth, Minnesota. Rumors had circulated among the mob that six African Americans had raped a teenage girl. A physician's examination subsequently found no evidence of rape or assault. 


Postcard depicting the lynching of Lige Daniels, Center, Texas, USA, August 3, 1920. The back reads, "This was made in the court yard in Center, Texas. He is a 16 year old Black boy. He killed Earl's grandma. She was Florence's mother. Give this to Bud. From Aunt Myrtle." As discussed in the article, lynchings were often motivated by economics, or were retaliations for violations of Jim Crow etiquette, with false accusations of murder made in order to justify them.

Lynching photographs were often made into postcards that were sold and distributed around the country through the mail.

This project hopes to look at the complex relation that such "postcards" have had in American history, fundamentally asking, "


Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Duluth, Minnesota.

For a fascinating analysis of the circulation of lynching photographs and postcards read Grace Elizabeth Hale's Making Whiteness: The Cultural Segregation in the South 1890- 1940.

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