I looked up the word Visual Identity, but I couldn’t find a clear definition of what it really meant. So, I began to ask myself what it means. Visual identity is what we perceive others or ourselves to be. It is almost the same as our judgment or our opinion. Perfect example, I went to the store the other day, and I saw a white man, he was dirty, his hair was not combed, and his clothes were dirty. Looking at him I thought he was homeless, but to my surprise he wasn’t he had just gotten off of work. It’s situations like this that make me wonder is it visual identity that we use as African Americans to access a person’s identity or is it the lack thereof?
In the period following the Reconstruction era, the issue of African American identity became a concern for both white and black Americans. Whites sought to define the place of blacks in society, while blacks struggled to defined themselves, often in very different terms. Visual identity was one aspect of this struggle then, and even now African Americans struggle with their visual identity today.
In 1863 the Reconstruction era was in effect. In this time we had just ended the Civil war, and the goal was to try and reconstruct a ravaged south. President Lincoln warned stating “the years to come would be “fraught with great difficulty.” Three days after he was assassinated. However, his words did not go out void. The reconstruction era was supposed to readdress slavery, give southern states a chance to re-join the union and to ensure that the civil rights and civil liberties of the newly emancipated blacks were respected, in anticipation of the southern states. However, white Americans did not see that this was right. “The American system of free labor based on individual enterprise would collapse as the government became a broker between different interests. America would no longer strive for equality of opportunity that permitted excellence but would content itself with the equality of conditions that guaranteed mediocrity.” Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction, (Cambridge, Massachusetts :), p.184
Mediocre was just what white Americans visualized the world to be if the government was to try and make African Americans equal to them. Whites believed that Blacks had no right to have be able to read, write, attend school or work. To White Americans giving African Americans a chance anything seemed diabolical to them, and they would do anything to try and stop African Americans from being Equal.
White Americans in the Reconstruction era viewed African Americans by their skin color and they judged them on how they looked. They also disapproved of African Americans trying to achieve literacy. The opportunities that White Americans had were different than those of African Americans. White Americans viewed African Americans as inferior to them. In result, African Americans were not permitted to Civil rights, education, and work. Being viewed by what they looked like held African...