Gregg A. Hecimovich, “The Zealy Daguerreotypes: Confronting Images of Enslavement” | National Humanities Center


Gregg A. Hecimovich, “The Zealy Daguerreotypes: Confronting Images of Enslavement”

November 3, 2023

In March 1850, five men and two women were photographed in the studio of South Carolina artist Joseph Zealy. When these daguerreotypes were uncovered in 1976, they quickly became some of the best-known pre-Civil War images of enslaved African Americans. Gregg A. Hecimovich (NHC Fellow, 2015–16; 2022–23) is asking important questions about why these images were captured, how they were lost for so long, and what they might tell us about legacies of white supremacy and enslavement in the United States.

photo of Gregg HecimovichGregg A. Hecimovich is professor of English at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the author of four books, including The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2023). He has received fellowships from the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University and the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. Additionally, he held a Public Scholar Fellowship appointment from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He earned his BA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he won the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Prize for most outstanding creative writer in his graduating class and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude in both English literature and creative writing. Hecimovich earned his MA and PhD at Vanderbilt University where he was awarded the Graduate Student of the Year Award. He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award and the Max Ray Joyner Award for innovative teaching with technology.

Image: Joseph T. Zealy, “Renty, frontal and profile,” 1850. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.