Representations of Race, Gender and Ability in School Photography


  • Eric Margolis Arizona State University



Educational History, Elementary Secondary Education, Photographs, Public Schools, Racial Discrimination, School Segregation, Social Attitudes


This article examines photographs taken of American public school classes between the 1880's and the 1940's. Most of the images were found in two virtual archives: The American Memory site at the Library of Congress and The National Archives and Record Center. These very large photograph collections were searched for representations of race, gender, and physical ability. The photographs were compared and contrasted and analyzed for elements of hidden curricula using techniques drawn from the social sciences and humanities. It was found that these large photo collections have significant gaps and historical amnesias. Collections made under conditions of racial segregation are themselves segregated and continue to reproduce images of hierarchy and dominance. To the extent these sites function as important resources for teachers and students searching for primary source documents for history and social studies projects, the archives convey significantly biased views of the history of education and minority groups in America.


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Author Biography

Eric Margolis, Arizona State University

Eric Margolis is a sociologist and Assistant Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Arizona State University College of Education. Recent publications include: The Department is Very Male, Very White, Very Old, and Very Conservative: The Functioning of the Hidden Curriculum in Graduate Sociology Departments (with Mary Romero) Harvard Educational Review (Vol. 68 1998); AIDS Research/AIDS Policy: Competing Paradigms of Science and Public Policy, Research in Social Policy, Vol. 6 (1998) JAI Press; and Hidden Curricula in Higher Education (in press) Routledge.




How to Cite

Margolis, E. (2000). Representations of Race, Gender and Ability in School Photography. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, 31.