Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars

A Photographic History

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Pub Date 01 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 03 Nov 2022

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Description

Picturing Freedom chronicles and celebrates the photographic history of African Americans and their cars by focusing on personal images of the pride and joy of car ownership (1900-1980+). Owning a car was a significant life-changing achievement for African Americans. It offered special freedoms—freedom to travel, freedom to work further from home, freedom to visit family and friends, freedom to avoid Jim Crow laws, and freedom to migrate. The car was unequivocal evidence of Black success and an important symbol of status in a country that had long fought their advancement in every area. Car ownership was purposely and proudly photographed. All of the photographs were taken in Black communities by a family member or a friend and reveal how African Americans represented themselves.  

This publication adds to the visual narrative of our culture through 272-pages and over 450 unique photographs. Accompanying the images are comprehensive histories of photography, car freedoms, and travel, as well as contributions from legendary photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. and public health advocate Gerald Deas, MD. 

This 2022 IPPY award-winning book is the sixth from Elizabeth A. Burns and the fiftieth from Stanley B. Burns, MD & The Burns Archive.

Picturing Freedom chronicles and celebrates the photographic history of African Americans and their cars by focusing on personal images of the pride and joy of car ownership (1900-1980+). Owning a...


Advance Praise

“The book is amazing and the images are profound!” — Jamel Shabazz, photographer 

“The book is WONDERFUL! Congratulations, not only for the publication, but for the many years of dedication to building such an amazing collection.” — Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, New Orleans Museum of Art

“Terrific book! It's just full of treasures, and I'm so pleased to have it in my personal library.” — Liz Siegel, Curator of Photography and Media, The Art Institute of Chicago

“I feel I have gone on a journey. The rhythm and pacing of the photographs, the repetition of poses, and the awesome historical sweep make for such a complete experience.” — Dalila Scruggs, Ph.D., Curator of Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

“powerful; thought-provoking and historic.” — Sekou Luke, photographer 

“The pictorial history of American civil rights you never knew you needed.” — Alice Bennett, Reedsy Discovery

“The book is amazing and the images are profound!” — Jamel Shabazz, photographer 

“The book is WONDERFUL! Congratulations, not only for the publication, but for the many years of dedication to...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781936002122
PRICE $40.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Picturing Freedom from Stanley Burns and Elizabeth Burns is a wonderful pictorial history of the role of automobiles in African American history, particularly highlighting the often-overlooked middle class and affluent parts of the population.

In addition to the wonderful photographs the essays discuss the double edge sword of the automobile. While offering more mobility and opportunity for migration it also offered authorities more opportunity to arrest and harass African Americans. With the Jim Crow laws and strict segregation there were limited places for travelers to eat or sleep, thus the creation of The Green Book to help.

As informative as the essays are about the big picture the photographs spotlight the people themselves. From families pictured with cars to apparent lovebirds looking at each other, we see the part of history that gets glossed over. Once I started seeing the pictures from the 60s onward it brought back memories, of cars and friends, and of the common feeling that automobile ownership brings of freedom.

This is a great historical reference, both the body of the book itself and the extensive references in the back. But it is also a very moving book of photographs as the reader thinks about the personal stories in each. There are a few such stories presented, which certainly helps to make the reader consider the ones we don't know.

Highly recommended for both history readers and historical photography fans. While not an extremely large format book, it would still make an ideal coffee or end table book since it can elicit comments on so many topics.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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Gorgeous book - more than just a photo album spanning many decades -- this book provides historical context and analysis. I enjoyed it and would love to have this book as a coffee table book, and would be happy to give this as a gift to friends.

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