The “Negro Book” of Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall

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  • Title: The “Negro Book” of Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall: Photography, Race, and Civil Rights in Early Cold War-Era America
  • Author(s): Chase Clow
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Arts Theory and History
  • Keywords: History of Photography, Red Scare, Cold War, Racism, Prejudice, Manzanar
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2326-9952 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-1779 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2326-9952/CGP/v14i02/37-50
  • Citation: Clow, Chase . 2019. "The “Negro Book” of Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall: Photography, Race, and Civil Rights in Early Cold War-Era America." The International Journal of Arts Theory and History 14 (2): 37-50. doi:10.18848/2326-9952/CGP/v14i02/37-50.
  • Extent: 14 pages

Abstract

Between 1945–1957 Ansel Adams and his friend and collaborator, Nancy Newhall, worked on a project they referred to in their letters as “The Negro Book.” Although this work never saw the light of day (publishers refused to print it), their letters provide a fascinating glimpse into their concern for the rights of Americans of color, their worry about the changing political climate post-WWII, and their struggle to embrace documentary photography as an art form even as they sought to use it for social good. Prolific and passionate writers, they corresponded frequently, sometimes daily, resulting in a corpus of over one hundred relevant extant letters. Distilling their correspondence to reveal their chief concerns, both political and artistic, and telling their story within the context of the broader social milieu, this article brings to light little-known dimensions of their long and productive careers.