Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits by Deborah Willis
Book Description: (Copied from Amazon.com) This stunning collection of photographic portraits traces US history through the lives of well-known abolitionists, artists, scientists, writers, statesman, entertainers, and sports figures. Drawing on the photographic collections of the National Portrait Gallery, author Deborah Willis explores how these images—many by famous photographers—reveal the nation’s history through an African American lens and challenge us all to uphold America’s highest ideals and promises. Let Your Motto Be Resistance is the inaugural publication of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Opinion on this book: I picked this for the non-readers. There are a few essays and tidbits about the people in the portraits but for the most part, it’s just something to look at. At least, that was what I thought. I borrowed this book from the library and I can say for sure that it is now on my “To buy” list. I thought it would be an easy book to look through and enjoy. It was. However, I also found myself overwhelmed with emotion over and over again. The portraits ranged from heart breaking, to inspirational, to loving, to pure happiness. It is a beautiful book. One that may seem like nothing more than a simple picture book but turns out to be a photographic history. It’s truly lovely.
Favorite Part: This kept changing. I looked through this book several times. I’m still looking through it. My favorite portrait keeps changing. First it was a portrait of Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis. I have a special place in my heart for these two. Then, a fantastic portrait of Gregory Hines dancing bare foot. I don’t know why but this one seemed pretty wonderful to me. Then a portrait of Richard Pryor was my favorite. This happened more times than I can count. Every page had a different character. A different reason to fall in love. I became emotional when looking at images of Martin, Malcolm, Stokely and James. However, it was the musicians that made me tear up. Made me wish I could have been there when the picture was taken. There is a beautiful photo of Cab Calloway from 1933 that I may have spent to much time looking at! Right now though, as I write this, my favorite is Willie “The Lion” Smith. He is playing a piano with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. It’s a smoky bar but he (and the photographer) are the only one’s there. You can see much of the empty bar. It’s haunting. It’s beautiful and right now, it’s my favorite.
Recommend it? Yes! Not just to look at and read though. This is one I encourage you to buy for yourself. It’s something I think everyone who owns it will go back to time and time again.