Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Changing Pictures

Monday, June 24, 2013

Changing Pictures

In 1900, W.E.B. Du Bois - then a professor of sociology at Atlanta University - now known as Clark Atlanta University - compiled a series of 363 photographs in two albums titled Types of American Negroes and Negro Life in Georgia, USA which he put on display at the Paris Exhibition.

The exhibit also contained items including charts, maps, and graphs recording the growth of population, economic power and literacy among African Americans in Georgia - the Black middle class that existed some thirty-five years after slavery was outlawed via the 13th Amendment.

Today the Library of Congress site that houses the collection advises:

[Du Bois was] committed to combating racism with empirical evidence of the economic, social and cultural conditions of African Americans. He believed that a clear revelation of the facts of African American life and culture would challenge the claims of biological race scientists influential at the time, which proposed that African American men and women challenged the scientific "evidence" and popular racist caricatures of the day that ridiculed and sought to diminish African American social and economic success. Further, the wide range of hair styles and skin tones represented in the photographs demonstrated that the so-called  "Negro type" was in fact a diverse group of distinct individuals. The one public statement Du Bois made concerning these photographs was that visitors to the American Negro exhibit would find "several volumes of photographs of typical Negro faces, which hardly square with conventional American ideas."

The sad thing is over one hundred years later very few students of history in our schools see these images. Instead they are bombarded with the same images of sharecroppers picking cotton in fields or sitting in the doorways of former slave cabins. While these people and their dismal situations did exist it wasn't the only "picture" of life for Blacks in the American South at the turn-of-the-century.

I'll be posting an album including several of the images at my Facebook page, but here are a few of the Georgia images.

This first image is David Tobias Howard who had his own carriage and driver. He's seated in the back with his wife and mother. Howard was a funeral director, and a high school in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward is named for him.

The picture below is the home of Bishop Gaines of the AME Church in Atlanta.

The man behind the desk in the picture below is IRS Collector Henry A. Rucker....and an African American.

....and here are a couple of more:

1 comment:

Audrey Bell-Kearney said...

Thanks for sharing this. Do you think I get permission to use the photos for a project that I am working on? If you have any suggestions I can be reached at


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