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Kimberly Wallace-SandersAssociate Professor of American and African American Studies

Kimberly Wallace-Sanders is an Associate Professor of American Studies and African American Studies in the department of African American Studies at Emory University. She received a B.A in English from Oberlin College, a M.F.A in Literary Arts from Brown University and a Ph.D. in American Cultural Studies from Boston University.

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:

“Ruth’s Journey,” the Prequel to “Gone with the Wind”, and the Mammy Stereotype.”

By Lois Warner                                   July 1, 2020,       

“Fascinating ‘Shadows’ Tries to Uproot Mythology of Black Nannies.”

By Gail O’Neill                      June 10, 2019, ArtsAtl

“Spelman President and Emory professor discuss representation in African American photographs.”

By Maureen McGavin                     June 6, 2019,       Emory News Center 

“Framing Shadows/Framing Lives: A Rosemary Magee Creativity Conversation with Kimberly Wallace-Sanders and Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College, ”

Emory University, Atlanta GA,       April 2019.


“Emory Exhibit Shines Light on Black Women Once in the Shadows”

By Rosalind Bentley                        March 19th  2019, The Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Southern Memory, Southern Monuments, and the Subversive Black Mammy”

By Kimberly Wallace-Sanders          June 15,  2009, Southern Spaces

“A Charleston Mystery: Who did Robert Frank Photograph Downtown 64 Years Ago?”

By Robert Behre                    September 26, 2019, The Post and Courier