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Kimberly Wallace-SandersAssociate Professor of American and African American Studies

Kimberly Wallace-Sanders is an Associate Professor of American and African American Studies in the department of African American Studies. She received her B.A in English from Oberlin College, her MFA in English and Creative Writing from Brown University and her PhD in American Studies from Boston University. Her research and teaching specialties are: 19th Century American and African American Women’s Literature, Ethnic Stereotypes in Visual and Material Culture, Representations of Race and The Female Body, Race, Gender and Visual Culture, African American Photography and Portraiture, Race, Gender and the American South and The Black Female Body, Beauty and American Culture. Professor Wallace-Sanders is a recipient of Emory’s 2014-2015 Associate Professor Completion award.

Professor Wallace-Sanders is currently completing work on a book called “Framing Shadows: Portraits of African American Women with White Children.” Ranging from 1850 to 1950, it will be the largest collection of portrait photographs of its kind. These portraits reveal an astonishing and complex intra-racial and inter-generational intimacy between family members and servants, offering innovative and original insights into American family life.  In this research project her intention is to foreground formal studio portraits of African American women with the white children of their owners or employers as unique examples of the historically troubling and complicated relationship between African Americans and white Americans; one of domestic service centering on childcare. As the natural sequence to her book Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender and Southern Memory (University of Michigan Press, 2007), this new book project represents a shift in her scholarly interests from the cultural representations of “the mammy” as a character to the African American women (and often young girls) whose daily lives were focused on caring for white children.  This project takes on the “family with servant” portrait genre as a subject with tremendous possibilities; each individual portrait represents a unique microcosm of power dynamics reflecting race, gender, class, status, and age.

Professor Wallace Sanders taught in the Institute of Liberal Arts from 1999 to 2011 and served as Director of Graduate Studies of the Graduate Program in the Institute of Liberal Arts from 2009 to 2011.  This list of her accomplished former students includes: Brittney Cooper (author of Eloquent Rage and Beyond Respectability ), Sheri Davis-Faulkner, Whitney Peoples and Moya Baily(author of Misogynoir Tansformed )who are all Founding Members of the award-winning “Crunk Feminist Collective,” Pellom McDaniels, Curator of African American Collections at the Rose Library, Emory University, Donna Troka, the Associate Director for the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Emory University,  Janelle Hobson author of Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, Stacy Boyd author of Black Men Worshipping: Intersecting Anxieties of Race, Gender, and Christian Embodiment, Tamura Lomax, founding editor of “The Feminist Wire” and author of Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry’s Cultural Productions, Kwesi DeGraff Hanson, featured on CNN for his work with the online database African Origins,Brent Campney, author of This Is Not Dixie,Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927, Miriam Petty, author of Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood, Michelle Hite, Associate Professor of English at Spelman College and Michelle J. Wilkerson, Museum Curator at Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

Wallace-Sanders has been nominated for both the Martin-Massey Teaching Award and the Eleanor Main Student Mentoring Award. 

Professor Wallace-Sanders edited the volume Skin Deep. Spirit Strong: Critical Essays on the Black Female Body in American Culture, (University of Michigan Press, 2002) which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Literature. Her book Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender and Southern Memory, (University of Michigan Press, 2007) is regularly taught in American Studies, Women’s Studies, African-American Studies and Southern Studies courses. Her most recent publications include: “Your eyes returning my Gaze” Southern Quarterly, Special Edition on Natasha Trethewey, Vol. 50,no.4 , Summer 2013, and “Every Child Left Behind: Minny’s Many Invisible Children in The Help,” Southern Cultures, Special Issue on The Help, spring 2014,
 Volume 20, Number 1, Spring 2014.

Professor Wallace-Sanders joined the Department of African American Studies in 2012 and has taught the following courses: “Introduction to African American Studies,” “Black Beauty: Race and the Politics of Beauty in American Culture,” “The Black Female Body in American Culture” and “Race, Gender and Southern Culture,” “Black Motherhood in American Culture”, “Black Girlhood in American Culture,” and “Black Middle Class in Film and Photography.

Recent Awards:

2021 - University Research Council Award, Emory University

2021 - National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute Faculty Participant: “Visual Culture, The Civil War and its Aftermath”

2021 - Southeastern Museums Conference Silver Medal for Academic Exhibitions for Curating:      Framing Shadows: Portraits of African American Nannies with White children from the Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection.”

Manuscripts in Preparation:

“Framing Shadows: Portraits of African American Women and White Children.” This book promises to challenge our knowledge of domestic labor, race and photography in nineteenth-century American culture. Six chapters are thematically arranged with lengthy analytic narratives adding context and substance to a compelling series of portraits of African American women posed with the children of their employers. These case studies provide crucial counter-narratives to the flat stereotype of the black mammy figure as a permanent fixture of the iconography of African American women. Estimated length: 280 pages with 25 color and b/w plates.

“Mammies, Nannies and Love Slaves: Race and Erasure in Domestic Portraiture.” The Portuguese phrase used most often to describe Black Brazilian women working as nannies for white families is: “escravo do amor” which has been translated into “the slave of love.” This book investigates the portrait studio as a space where the technology of photography caused major shifts in the way families were perceived and represented in the United States and in Brazil. One of the most sought after photographic “tricks” was to chemically lighten the hands of the Black nannies in the portrait.


Relevant Areas of Expertise/Courses Taught           

  • African American Photography; Portraiture, Collections, Archives
  • Southern Traditions
  • The Black Middle Class and Visual Culture
  • 19th and early 20th century African American Visual Culture
  • Race, Gender and Visual Culture
  • Race and Gender in the South
  • Race/Ethnicity and Beauty
  • Motherhood in African American Culture



Selected Publications:


Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender and Southern Memory, (University of Michigan Press, 2007)

Skin Deep. Spirit Strong: Critical Essays, (University of Michigan Press, 2002) Nominated for the 2003 NAACP Image Award for Literature. 

Essays in Exhibition Catalogs:

“Storming the Castle: Liberating the Black Female Body: Skin Masks and Counternarratives,” in Alicia Henry: Witnessing, edited by Gaetane Verna (Canada Cataloguing, 2019), 81-93.

  • This invited essay addressing “Witnessing,” Alicia Henry’s first solo exhibition in Canada, emphasizes her use of “masking” as a survival technique among African Americans.

“The Body of a Myth: Embodying the Myth of The Mammy Figure in Visual Culture,” in Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body, edited by Barbara Thompson (Washington University Press, 2007),161-179.

  • This invited essay about the exhibition “Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body,” looks at the historical roots of the black female body, bringing to light how contemporary artists shift the focus from stereotype to empowerment.


Selected Articles and Book Reviews:

“Your eyes returning my Gaze” Southern Quarterly Special Edition on U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Vol. 50, no.4, Summer 2013: pp 173 – 188.

  • Highlighting the Natasha Trethewey Papers from the Rose Library, this essay examines Trethewey as a poet whose relationship to photographs and photography is a driving force behind her work.

“Review of Jasmine Nicole Cobb, Picture Freedom: Remaking Visual Culture in the Early Nineteenth Century” (New York: New York University Press, 2015), Winterthur Portfolio Jun 2016, Volume 50, Issue 2/3, pp. 201 – 202.

  • In the decades leading up to the end of U.S. slavery, many African Americans sat for daguerreotypes using portraiture to seize control over their representation and reimagine their futures.


Media Coverage and Online Sources: