A Visual History of Racism in America Articulates What Words Cannot

Bettmann Archive / Getty
Bettmann Archive / Getty

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Award-winning photographer Richard Frishman embarked on a 35,000-mile journey across the U.S. to capture America’s history of racism in an effort to show how these Ghosts of Segregation haunt us because they are still very much alive.

Frishman partnered with sociologist Dr. B. Brian Foster, who contributed a series of essays about the shared history Black Americans have with racism. The pair told The New Abnormal’s co-host Danielle Moodie how they hope the book will be a resource for anyone who disputes America’s racist past.

“I turned my camera towards the places that represent how far we have gone and how far we have fallen back. Whether it’s the site where George Floyd was killed, or Breonna Taylor, or the places where civil rights workers were murdered, or Black people were lynched,” Frishman said. “I’m appalled and I feel like I need to shout out, ‘This is happening people, do something about it. We all have to do something about it.’”

“One of the things that I appreciate about photography is it’s hard to deny what’s there, what you can see with your own eyes,” he said. “The recent comment by Nikki Haley that America was never a racist country is such a lie. It clearly has been. And unfortunately to a large degree continues to be. I feel shame about that and the people who perpetrate it should feel shame.”

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Foster said part of the reason he wanted to work on the book was to combat the wave of denialism around racism in the U.S.

“It’s almost like reality is gaslighting those of us who are plugged into these real histories,” he said. “We didn’t draw these pictures. We didn’t paint them. We didn’t imagine them. They are the environments that today actually surround us. But the thing that stands out to me is just the heavy-handed, aggressive, and very much public efforts to obfuscate or ignore or just rewrite the things that actually happened.”

“There are photos in the collection that do speak to the resilience of Black American communities, the defiant ways that we have made places for ourselves, even as these histories have tried to erase us, literally and figuratively. So there is a hopefulness that we will continue to do what we’ve always done,” Foster said.

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