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Virtual Student Guide Tour: Photography for Racial Justice—Two 19th-Century Examples, with Maeve Miller and Adam Sella

There are two photographs side by side. The left image is sepia-colored and shows a young boy seated facing left. He is wearing dark pants and a buttoned-up jacket. His light-colored hair is parted to the right. He grasps a large flag, consisting of stars and stripes. The flag is draped over the boy’s seat and spills out onto the floor in front of him. Below, the text reads “Freedom’s Banner. Charley, A Slave Boy from New Orleans.” The image on the right is a black and white photograph and shows an African American man seated in a chair facing right. He has a moustache and dark hair with a lighter stripe running through the middle. He is wearing dark pants, a shirt, and a jacket with a white high collar. His left arm rests on a small table; his right arm rests on his right leg. Below, the text reads “Fred. Douglass.”
Maeve Miller and Adam Sella will discuss Charles Paxson’s Freedom’s Banner. Charley, A Slave Boy from New Orleans (left) and a portrait of Frederick Douglass (right).


Maeve Miller ’22 and Adam Sella ’22 examine how photography was used as a tool to promote ideas of racial justice in the years during and around the American Civil War. Engaging with issues such as the legibility of race and the social and political stakes of representation, their tour looks closely at two examples: Freedom’s Banner. Charley, A Slave Boy from New Orleans (1864) by Charles Paxson and a portrait of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass by an unidentified photographer.

This interactive tour will take place online via Zoom. To join, click the following link: (free admission; no pre-registration required).

Virtual Student Guide Tours take place every Thursday at 8pm and every Saturday at 11am on Zoom. Each tour is unique and offers a chance to explore the collections of the Harvard Art Museums through the eyes of a Harvard student. Drop in and join the conversation!

For instructions on how to join a meeting on Zoom, click here. For general questions about Student Guide Tours, email

This program is supported by the Ho Family Student Guide Fund.

The Ho Family Student Guide Program at the Harvard Art Museums trains students to develop original, research-based tours of the collections. These tours, designed and led by Harvard undergraduates from a range of academic disciplines, focus on objects chosen by each Student Guide and offer a unique, thematic view into the collections.