Cover: Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision, from Harvard University PressCover: Slaves on Screen in PAPERBACK

Slaves on Screen

Film and Historical Vision

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Product Details


$31.00 • £24.95 • €28.00

ISBN 9780674008212

Publication Date: 03/30/2002

Academic Trade

176 pages

22 halftones

United States and its dependencies only

Her subject is always worth considering… [Davis] considers how slavery is portrayed and how its history is treated. She compares the writing of history (which has been around for 2,500 years) with feature filmmaking about history (which has been around for 100 years) and concludes, ‘Historical films should let the past be the past.’—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

[Davis] addresses Hollywood’s treatment of African-American history squarely, showing how the images have changed from Spartacus to Beloved.Washington Post

This book is filled with valuable lessons for students of both the past itself and the various media through which history can be told.—John E. O’Connor, Phi Beta Kappa Journal

Here, slavery itself serves as a springboard for a larger consideration: respect for the historical record vs. a need for dramatic effect. Davis argues convincingly for the historical film as a source of ‘thought experiments’ about the past rather than pure presentation of fact.—Anthony J. Adam, Library Journal

Davis, a historian with a concentration on people outside traditional power centers, explores the treatment of slaves on film from a historical perspective…[and] sets up the complex interplay between historically supportable fiction and imagination… The historical alterations that take place, Davis advocates, should be acknowledged to film viewers so that they may distinguish between historical fact and fiction… Very informative.—Vernon Ford, Booklist

A superlative job. Davis demonstrates how contemporary events (the civil rights movement, a growing awareness of the Holocaust, for example) impinged upon Hollywood’s portrayal of slavery, and she deftly analyzes the advantages and pitfalls of film as history. There is no book quite like it.—Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom

This book will give us a wholly new view of how slavery has been perceived and understood by a broad public audience.—David Brion Davis, author of The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture

An engrossing and illuminating account of the ways in which films show our understanding of slavery. Natalie Davis once again illustrates, with sensitivity and craft, the sheer pleasure of history in its innumerable forms.—Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, author of Within the Plantation Household

A major historian convincingly shows how cinema has an important contribution to make to our understanding of the past.—Robert A. Rosenstone, author of Visions of the Past

Davis persuasively demonstrates how each film is a profound and complex collaboration. The fusion of detailed movie explication with detailed historical narration makes Davis’s judgments deep and subtle. Readers learn about slavery and also about how filmmakers interpret the past. Davis also propounds guidelines for thinking about how filmmakers should do what they do, and how historians should react. She pleads for filmmakers to regard the past more seriously, and she urges them to have faith that audiences will be transfixed by this vivid rendering.—Mark C. Carnes, editor of Past Imperfect: History According to the Novelists

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