Skip to content

Ken Gonzales-Day

A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence


Ken Gonzales-Day


A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence (2022)
Edited by Janet Dees
Contributors: Sampada Aranke, Courtney Baker, Huey Copeland, Janet Dees,
Leslie Harris, and LaCharles Ward.

Published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ in association with
the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.

Hardcover, 136 pages
ISBN-10: 0691209278
ISBN-13: 978-0691209272

From the horrors of slavery and lynching to the violent suppression of civil rights struggles and recent acts of police brutality, targeted violence of Black lives has been an ever-present fact in American history. Images of African American suffering and death have constituted an enduring part of the nation’s cultural landscape, and the development of creative counterpoints to these images has been an ongoing concern for American artists. Investigating the conceptual and aesthetic strategies artists have used to engage with the issue of anti-Black violence, A Site of Struggle highlights diverse works of art and ephemera from the post-Reconstruction period of the late nineteenth century to the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Foregrounding the perspectives of African American cultural producers, this book examines three major questions: How are graphic portrayals of violence enlisted to protest horrors like lynchings? How have artists employed conceptual strategies and varying degrees of abstraction to avoid literal representations of violence? And how do artists explore violence through subtler engagements with the Black body? Ultimately, A Site of Strugglehighlights the ubiquity and impact of anti-Black violence by focusing on its depictions; by examining how art has been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize this violence; and by providing the historical context for contemporary debates about its representation. The book’s essays offer new perspectives from established and emerging scholars working in the fields of African American studies, art history, communications, and history.


Janet Dees is the Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. Sampada Aranke is assistant professor of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Courtney R. Baker is associate professor of English at University of California, Riverside. Huey Copeland is the BFC Presidential Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Leslie Harris is professor of history at Northwestern University. LaCharles Wardis a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Twitter @NUBlockMuseum Instagram @nublockmuseum

Back To Top