“At the Crossroads of Hope and Despair” comprises images taken across the country from 2009 to 2013 that speak to the complexities of this moment. Drawn from nearly 4000 images now archived on the Historian’s Eye website, these materials convey the harsh realities of American life during the Great Recession, but they also capture diverse passions and expressions of civic engagement that are emblems of aspiration, futurity, and promise. Myriad closed businesses and abandoned storefronts constitute a public monument to widespread distress; omnipresent, expectant Obama iconography articulates a wish for new national narratives; flamboyant street theater and wry signage and graffiti bespeak a widespread impulse to talk back. Together these images reflect the somber beauty of a time that is perilous, but in which “hope” has not ceased to hold meaning.
Matthew Frye Jacobson is William Robertson Coe Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies. The author of numerous books, his teaching interests include race in U.S. political culture 1790–present, U.S. imperialism, immigration and migration, popular culture, and the juridical structures of U.S. citizenship.
As well as the extensive archive of photographs, the Historian’s Eye website features audio interviews and transcripts, video and other resources.
Please visit www.historianseye.org