John Edwin Mason_VIAD RA.jpeg

John Edwin Mason

John Edwin Mason is a member of the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, where he teaches African history and the history of photography. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati and his Ph.D. from Yale University.

Mason is currently at work on Gordon Parks: American Photographer, a book that examines the reportage of one of the twentieth century's most significant photographers, writers, and filmmakers.  During the crucial decades of the 1940s, '50s. and '60s, Parks' images, and the texts that he often wrote to accompany them, made him one of the leading interpreters of poverty and race in American society. The book will be the first full-length study of Parks' photographic career.

Working with museums, Mason organized Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument, at the University of Virginia's Fralin Museum of Art, in 2014, and, in 2016-17, served as senior project advisor for Visual Justice: The Gordon Parks Photography Collection, at the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University.

Mason's first book, Social Death and Resurrection: Slavery and Emancipation in South Africa, explored the lives of enslaved people and traced the changes that freedom brought. One Love Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival, which was based on his four-year membership in a carnival troupe, combined history, ethnography, and his own photographs. He has also written about the important South African photo-essays that Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White produced in 1949 and 1950.

Selected Publications:

"Seeing Resurrection City, Seeing the Poor," introduction, Jill Freedman, Resurrection City, 1968, (New York: Damiani Books, 2017).

"How a Photographer Illuminated the Plight of the 'Invisible Poor,'" Time/Life online, 26 October 2017.

"#Charlottesville," VQROnline, 24 August 2017.

"An Annual Compendium of Black Photography that Was a Revolutionary Act," review essay, Hyperallergic, 4 August 2017.

"John W. Mosley:  Chronicler of Philadelphia’s 20th-Century Black Life," Hyperallergic, 27 December 2016.

"Gordon Parks and the American Documentary Tradition," C/O Berlin (publication of the C/O Berlin media center), 20 September 2016.

"Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison’s Collaborative Visions of Harlem," Hyperallergic, 19 August 2016.

"Visual Justice:  Gordon Parks' American Photographs," catalog essay, Visual Justice:  The Gordon Parks Photography Collection at Wichita State University, (Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, 2016).

"Louis Draper:  A Photographer Who Captured the Complexity of Black Life in Lyrical Ways," Hyperallergic, 24 June 2016.

"Interview with Photographer George Hallett," Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies, 40, 1(2014).

"Picturing the Beloved Country:  Margaret Bourke-White, Life Magazine, and South Africa, 1949-1950," Kronos (South Africa), 38(November 2013).

One Love Ghoema Beat:  Inside the Cape Town Carnival, (Cape Town and Charlottesville: Random House Struik and the University of Virginia Press, 2010).

"‘Mannenberg’:  Notes on the Making of an Icon and Anthem," African Studies Quarterly, 9, 3(Fall 2007).

Social Death and Resurrection: Slavery and Emancipation in South Africa, (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003).

"Hendrik Albertus and His Ex-Slave Mey: A Drama in Three Acts," Journal of African History, 31, 3(1990).