Cover of Elizabeth Abel: Signs of the Times

Elizabeth Abel Signs of the Times

The Visual Politics of Jim Crow

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University of California Press


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Signs of the Times traces the career of Jim Crow signs-simplified in cultural memory to the "colored/white" labels that demarcated the public spaces of the American South-from their intellectual and political origins in the second half of the nineteenth century through their dismantling by civil rights activists in the 1960s and '70s. In this beautifully written, meticulously researched book, Elizabeth Abel assembles a variegated archive of segregation signs and photographs that translated a set of regional practices into a national conversation about race. Abel also brilliantly investigates the semiotic system through which segregation worked to reveal how the signs functioned in particular spaces and contexts that shifted the grounds of race from the somatic to the social sphere.

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