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Tuesday, February 25, 2020


11:00 AM - 4:30 PM, February 25

Making History, Justifying Conquest: Depictions of Native Americans in American Book Company Textbooks
SU Art Galleries

SU Art Galleries, Shaffer Art Building
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

As the USA rose in world power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a government-led emphasis emerged in promoting a national history in which the conquest of Native peoples was justified. The American Book Company, one of the largest textbook publishers of the time, played a vital role in this process, producing many textbooks that contained illustrated histories featuring Native peoples. A vast audience of impressionable, young minds encountered these textbooks which rely on images mythologizing White heroism and conveying Native savagery and primitivism through scenes such as Daniel Carter Beard's The Perils and Pleasures of the Wilderness—Daniel Boone, circa 1900. These books reflected and shaped widespread rhetoric of Euro-American superiority, which sought to justify the colonization of Native lands and the conquest of Native peoples. This exhibition deconstructs the versions of history and Native peoples presented by the illustrations through four prominent themes found in ABC publications: contact, the construction of history, assimilation and violence, and the vanishing Indian. To further explain the different views, quotes from Native artists, writers, and scholars are included in each section. The authoritative, educational messages communicated in the American Book Company textbooks ensured a lasting legacy for dominant narratives of American history that still marginalize Native peoples today. However, by calling attention to these images and placing them in a more accurate context, this exhibition asks us to consider how images are used and misused to construct historical narratives.

Parking for weekend and evening visitors is in Q4 lot on College Place. Notify the attendant that you are visiting the SUArt Galleries. Parking is on a space available basis and may be restricted during events held at the Carrier Dome. If spaces are not available in Q4 the attendant will direct you to the nearest lot.


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