Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid

Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid

Alex Lichtenstein and Rick Halpern
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/10/2016
Format: Hardback 64 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02126-7
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As a photographer for Life and Fortune magazines, Margaret Bourke-White traveled to Russia in the 1930s, photographed the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and recorded the liberation of Buchenwald at the end of WWII. In 1949, Life sent her to South Africa to take photographs in a country that was becoming racially polarized by white minority rule. Life published two photo-essays highlighting Bourke-White’s photographs, but much of her South African work remained unpublished until now. Here, these stunning photographs collected by Alex Lichtenstein and Rick Halpern offer an unparalleled visual record of white domination in South Africa during the early days of apartheid. In addition to these powerful and historically significant photographs, Lichtenstein and Halpern include two essays that explore Bourke-White's artistic and political formation and provide background material about the cultural, political, and economic circumstances that produced the rise and triumph of Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa. This richly illustrated book brings to light a large body of photography from a major American photographer and offers a compelling history of a reprehensible system of racial conflict and social control that Bourke-White took such pains to document.

Author Bio

Rick Halpern is the Bissell-Heyd Chair of American Studies at the University of Toronto. He is author of Down on the Killing Floor: Black and White Workers in Chicago’s Packinghouses and other works on race and labor.

Alex Lichtenstein is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is author of Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South.


“A beautiful book, touching and powerful.”
 — Actuphoto

“Bourke-White revealed humanity in her powerful, aesthetically structured photographs. . . . Highly recommended.”
 — Choice

“Particularly because fewer than half of the photographs here were published in Life, this book makes a substantive contribution to our visual archives of apartheid’s early years, providing a rich new resource for research and teaching. . . . The world should see this book.”
 — South African Historical Journal

“A Life photographer's stunning images offer an unparalleled visual record of white domination in South Africa during the early days of apartheid that Bourke-White took such pains to document.”

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Table of Contents

Introduction Alex Lichtenstein
1. South Africa at the Crossroads Rick Halpern
2. From Cleveland to Johannesburg: Margaret Bourke-White’s Journey to South Africa
Alex Lichtenstein
3. Afrikaners
4. On the Mines
5. On the Land
6. Protest, Repression, and Resistance
7. From Buchenwald to Moroka

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