Historicizing a Photographic Archive: Curating Margaret
Bourke-White’s South Africa

Professor Lichtenstein will talk about the research and curatorial process that went into his work on “Photos in Black and White: Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid,” opening this week at UCT’s Michaelis Galleries.

Through research in both Life Magazine’s photographic archive and Bourke-White’s personal papers, Professor Lichtenstein has tried to reconstruct Bourke-White’s 1950 trip to South Africa. During her four months in the country, she documented the migrant labor system on the farms, prison labour, farmworkers in the Western Cape, Afrikaner nationalism, communist-led protests, and life in Moroka shantytown outside of Johannesburg. The exhibition seeks both to restore this visual record of the early years of apartheid to a contemporary South African audience, and to place it in historical context.

Alex Lichtenstein, Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, studies the intersection of labor history and the struggle for racial justice in societies shaped by white supremacy, particularly the U.S. South (1865-1954) and 20th-century South Africa. His first book, Twice the Work of Free Labor examines the role of prison labor in the remaking of the American South in the half century after the Civil War. He has written extensively about race relations in the labor movement, interracial agrarian radicalism, early civil rights struggles, and the impact of anticommunism on the labor and civil rights movements. In 2000, he traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright Fellowship, where he became interested in comparative U.S./South African history and began research on the history of black and “mixed” trade unions under apartheid. This work will form the basis of a future book on South African labor relations and the state, tentatively entitled Making Apartheid Work. His articles on the Marikana Massacre have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books.