According to thegrio.com, the photo archives of EBONY and JET magazines were sold at auction on Thursday. A group of buyers including the J. Paul Getty Trust, in association with the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation purchased the historic photos for $30 million.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the archive will go to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute, as well as other institutions so that researchers and scholars will have access.
“There is no greater repository of the history of the modern African-American experience than this archive,” James Cuno, president of The J. Paul Getty Trust, said in a press release. The trust is the lead purchaser in the consortium. “Saving it and making it available to the public is a great honor and a grave responsibility.”
The archive, which chronicles seven decades of Black life in America and consists of millions of images, was placed up for auction by the Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co., after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April.
Creditors owed include filmmaker George Lucas and his wife financial investment advisor Mellody Hobson, who own Capital V Holdings and gave a $12 million loan to Johnson Publishing. Lucas and Hobson were eligible to bid on the archives using the money that was owed to them. They could also have received the full collection in foreclosure if there had not been another bidder for the archives.
“The Johnson Publishing archives are an essential part of American history and have been critical in telling the extraordinary stories of African American culture for decades,” Lucas and Hobson’s company said back in April. “We want to be sure the archives are protected for generations to come.”
The first known African American female cartoonist was Jackie Ormes, who not only penned cartoon strips throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but designed a black doll called the Patty-Jo doll, which was released in 1947.
Patty-Jo, a precursor to Barbie, which came in 1959, was based on a cartoon strip character of the same name, had an extensive wardrobe with preppy shoes, winter coats and ball gowns – and had the brains to go with it.
In a cartoon strip from 1948, Patty-Jo asks a white woman: “How’s about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?”
The seeds of the exhibit were planted in the 1990s, when University of Illinois professor Victor Margolin started to explore a gap in the history of American design.
“Margolin was one of the first scholars who asked why there has been a lack of scholarship on African American designers,” said the exhibition curator Daniel Schulman. “He went into the field and interviewed 25 designers who were active from 1930s to 1980s, many of which are in the exhibit.”
With a focus exclusively on Chicago designers, it highlights artists who shaped the look of black publications like the Chicago Defender and the Johnson publishing house, founded in 1942 by African American business mogul John H. Johnson, which founded Jet and Ebony magazines alongside the now-defunct Black World, Ebony Man and Black Stars.
“Our thesis is that Chicago is a special center for design for African Americans because it was one of the major sites in the north they came to from the rural south in mid-20th century,” said Schulman. “It has a large, vibrant and politically powerful design community.”
Among the works in the exhibit is an original Patty-Jo doll designed and produced by Ormes, who was a cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier, though she lived in Chicago. The doll, in a yellow dress, was highly coveted by African American girls, though it was so expensive, parents had to pay in instalments.
“The doll was noteworthy for its quality. Its facial features were hand-painted and designed from life-like materials,” said Schulman. “It was a role model for any child.”
It ties into the cartoons Ormes built around the Patty-Jo character. “She was a beautiful fictional character who was known for making witty, astute remarks about the world around African American middle-class people in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Schulman. “The doll was in production for 10 years, it had an extraordinary presence and power, and today, they’re collectibles holding an importance place in American doll-making.”
Among the other designers in the exhibit, there are advertisements by Charles C. Dawson, who designed the graphics promoting Slick Black, black hair color tins from the 1930. Dawson was also part of the New Negro art movement, which surfaced around the same time as the Harlem Renaissance black arts movement in New York.
In 1971, the first African American-owned advertising agency was co-founded by Emmett McBain and Thomas J. Burrell. Burrell McBain Advertising boasted clients such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
“It was enormously important,” said Schulman. “It was one of first black-owned firms to land major national accounts like cigarette manufacturers and campaigns for companies that included African Americans in mainstream roles on TV and in magazines, which brought their image to a broader public. It was a new and powerful conception of black commercial, political and social power.”
“Instead of having contemporary life portrayed with celebrities or ordinary people, this cover looks back on 100 years of the emancipation proclamation,” said Schulman. “It shows Ebony engaged with civil rights.”
Also on view is a comic called “Home Folks” by Jay Jackson, a cartoonist for the Chicago Defender who won several awards for his cartoons made during the second world war. A panel on view called Debt and Taxes shows one character complaining: “What do they mean ‘income tax’? It should be ‘outgo’ tax!”
“It’s a masterpiece,” said Schulman. “It shows young, middle-class African Americans in a wonderful mid-century modern interior talking about how expensive things are, the dream of prosperity that was commonplace as a selling technique in the 1950s, this mass consumer market and postwar prosperity. In popular media, you don’t always see African Americans taking part of a stream of plenty in the 1950s.”
But ambition aside, it was tough for African Americans to break into the advertising industry, not to mention navigating the office culture once they were there. “It’s really about working in a field with so few African Americans designers in it,” said Schulman. “There are images that show how frustrating it could be in such a tiny minority in this field – there is one image of Eugene Winslow in his office with commentary that shows he was unhappy being a supervisor of an all-white staff who did not appreciate having a black supervisor.”
Though this showcase of pre-digital design ends in the year 1980, it still is a triumph, especially considering many ephemeral pieces of graphic design from the past were lost.
“It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s an introduction,” said Schulman. “What we’re trying to demonstrate here is the lasting influence and effectiveness of the visual arts and design throughout the 20th century in Chicago.”
According to huffingtonpost.com, musical icon Beyoncé received unprecedented control over the cover of the upcoming September issue of Vogue magazine, and in turn hired Tyler Mitchell, 23, to be her photographer. Mitchell will become the first black photographer to shoot a cover in the publication’s 126-year history.
Vogue, according to two sources who are familiar with the agreement between Vogue and Beyoncé, is contractually obligated to give Beyoncé full control over the cover, the photos of her inside the magazine and the captions, which she has written herself and are in long-form. Beyoncé is also not granting Vogue a sit-down interview for the September 2018 issue, as is typical of its cover subjects.
Mitchell, a New York University graduate from Atlanta, quickly became a recognized name in the art world through his work in Cuba and his featured work on Instagram.
The New York Times’ “Up Next” series featured Mitchell in December. Huffingtonpost.com writes that 23-year-old first gained attention in 2015 with his self-published book of photos, El Paquete, which focused on Cuban skate culture and architecture. Mitchell captured the book’s 108 photos while in Cuba for six weeks as part of a documentary photography program, according to the Times.
Netflix re-imagines the iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photo that captured 57 notable jazz musicians in front of a Harlem brownstone. XXL Magazine did the same with their “A Great Day In Hip-Hop” cover in 1999 featuring artists like Run of Run DMC, Busta Rhymes and other hip-hop notables of the era.
Netflix’s homage to the famous photo features 47 creative and talented behind 20+ original shows/films/documentaries. A 60-second video of the event, directed by Lacey Duke, premieres during the BET Awards.
“It was a pretty magical couple of hours,” Duke said in the official release. “All these amazingly talented, beautiful individuals in one space being supportive and just looking stunning together, all here to pull off this one take wonder! Alfre Woodard even lead everyone in an epic rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ before we started shooting. It was beautiful, and in a flash it was over. It was probably the most overwhelming two hours of my career haha. I was just so happy to be a part of history.”
To see and learn more about the original photo, click here.
To see a list of who in Black Hollywood is in the picture above, scroll down:
Ava Duvernay (13th, Central Park Five)
Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It)
Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage; Juanita)
Gabrielle Dennis (Luke Cage)
Simone Missick (Luke Cage)
Cheo Hodari Coker (Luke Cage)
Mike Colter (Luke Cage)
Antonique Smith (Luke Cage)
Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage)
Vaneza Oliveira (3%)
Russell Hornsby (Seven Seconds)
Priah Ferguson (Stranger Things)
Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things)
Lena Waithe (Master of None; Dear White People; Step Sisters)
Chante Adams (Roxanne Roxanne)
Nia Long (Roxanne Roxanne, Dear White People)
Justin Simien (Dear White People)
Logan Browning (Dear White People)
Nia Jervier (Dear White People; Step Sisters)
Antoinette Robertson (Dear White People)
DeRon Horton (Dear White People)
Ashley Blaine Featherson (Dear White People)
Marque Richardson (Dear White People; Step Sisters)
Digitizing legacy. That’s the job of the curators behind The Obsidian Collection – archivists for The Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro American and other historically black newspapers in the United States. Their task is massive: digitize every image and article from newspapers that played a central role in the Great Migration, Civil Rights and Jim Crow eras. But they won’t have to do it all alone. Google Arts & Culture is working with the Obsidian group on creating digital exhibits that can be free and searchable by anyone around the world.
That’s just the first step, and it’s huge.
“More than just digitizing it for researchers, I’m passionate about the next generation seeing how awesome we are and in changing the narrative permeating the American conversation right now about African Americans,” says Angela Ford, who is helming the project and is excited about how it will add a more accurate variety of African American image metadata to the Google brain trust.
“What happens is a lot of these archive collections speak in an echo chamber of libraries and archives where it just doesn’t get out to the laypeople. What I love about Google Arts and Culture is you could be standing in line at the grocery store and viewing our archives. We’ll keep rotating them in and out and keep pushing them through social media. We want everyone to see us.”
Obsidian already has an image of Harold Washington sitting with a young Carol Moseley Braun, except she was cropped out the image. There’s a water splattered image of children running through the spray of an open fire hydrant on 44th and Champlain, circa 1987. Even the mundane is fascinating, says Ford.
“The Defender had a housewares show in October 1959 and it was a big deal,” says Ford. “It cost a quarter to get in and we have pictures of all the black people promoting their products and Whirlpool was there with their miracle kitchen. We were separate from mainstream America and a lot of things went on in our community that shows a black middle class home.”
Ford is also working with her board—which includes people who have worked with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—on the larger issues that include the creation of virtual reality online exhibits.
“Google Culture Institute in Paris has invented the capacity to create virtual 3D spaces from a photograph,” says Ford, discussing the possibilities involved in using old picture to create virtual realities. “The question is, are we altering the art?”
A lot of this work is already on microfilm, but moving it to an online space will make it easier to access via smartphone, which is the end goal. Obsidian will slog through uploading everything to their own website and meanwhile, visitors will soon be able to head to Google Arts & Culture for a taste of what’s to come.
“Google’s arts and culture strategy is that everybody in the world can access everybody in the world and that will create a new world,” says Ford. “We want to make sure we are part of that conversation.”
More than half a century after the groundbreaking exhibit “The Negro Woman,” the image announcing the show by the African-American collective Kamoinge still captivates. Taken by Louis Draper, who had a keen sense of light and shadow, the photograph shows an older black woman standing on a busy Harlem street corner. In the crowd, her face is finely in focus. She is tired, gazing off into the distance, as she waits, with serious dignity and grace.
It was an everyday scene that in its own way was extraordinary. Led by the astute chronicler of Harlem life, Roy DeCarava, the show aimed to reclaim the beauty of the African-American woman. Kamoinge’s group exhibition was among the first to carefully and radically picture the black woman’s elegance and pride.
“Nothing like that had been done in the community before,” said Adger Cowans, the president and a co-founder of Kamoinge. “The black woman has been underrepresented. Here we are today and we are still looking at black women negatively. We wanted to show their beauty and power.”
Decades after “The Negro Woman,” that same motivation has inspired Kamoinge’s new exhibit, “Black Women: Power and Grace,” at the National Arts Club in New York from May 28 to June 30. “With this exhibition we are showing our love and appreciation to our mothers, wives and sisters,” said Russell Frederick, a co-organizer of the exhibition and Kamoinge’s vice president. “I think black women, who have mostly been objectified in the media, have actually made a major mark on society that really can’t be quantified but has gone unrecognized.”
The show includes several intimate portraits by Mr. Russell that examine traditional notions of beauty and Anthony Barboza’s images of black models, like a bald and beautiful Pat Evans, that affirm them. Among the show’s earliest works is Mr. Cowan’s “Untitled (Betty Shabazz).” Taken in 1965, the black-and-white picture shows Ms. Shabazz coming out the back of a Harlem church where the funeral service for her husband Malcolm X had been held. In an indelible image of strength and loss, Ms. Shabazz’s face is veiled in black lace as a single tear rolls down her cheek.
“That picture meant something to me because my whole universe stood still,” said Mr. Cowan, 81. “It was very emotional for me, she was as big in my eyes as Malcolm. It was important for people to see this image because this woman carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and you can see it on her face.”
Since 2016, the photo collective, founded in 1963, has made an effort to expand ranks — historically dominated by male photographers — with younger, female artists. The group’s new black female members, including the French-Senegalese portraitist Delphine Diallo, join a small company of women like Ming Smith, the first black woman photographer to have her work collected by the Museum of Modern Art.
“Black Women: Power and Grace” also features other female newcomers. Lola Flash has two pictures that bring visibility to the black lesbian community; a 2010 Delphine Fawundu self portrait, “What Do They Call Me, My Name Is Aunt Sara,” challenges us to rethink the names we call black women; and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn’s images explore spiritual practice in Senegal.
“I’ve been watching Kamoinge for most of my career and I’ve seen its growth,” Ms. Barrayn said. “I always felt being a part of Kamoinge was so far-fetched because there weren’t many women in the group.”
Kamoinge’s mission-oriented pictures are populated with individual narratives that have long come together to shape the complex diversity of black women.
“The challenge is to see her differently,” Mr. Frederick said. “We really embrace today’s black woman, who she is and even those who came before her like Maya Angelou, Maxine Waters and Dionne Warwick, who are all holding hands in Eli Reed’s picture.
“Black women have broken barriers, been torch bearers and pioneers,” Mr. Frederick continued. “And at the same time, they have always looked out for all of us in the neighborhood, taking us to church, making Sunday dinner and always having our back.”
It’s a foggy spring night in Paris, and Rihanna has just wrapped up a meeting with her accountant in the penthouse suite of the Four Seasons hotel, a place that will serve as her makeshift office for the next few days. The evening panorama from the terrace is about as picture-postcard pretty as Paris gets, though at this late hour the lights on the Eiffel Tower have long since gone out. Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty is a night owl. Her most intense bouts of creativity often come after midnight, a rhythm she picked up early in her music career. In the dark, soundproofed environment of a recording studio, time is elastic. And when you’re Rihanna, and the world is your oyster, then time is really elastic. It’s perhaps why she doesn’t seem particularly bothered that today’s to-do list is far from done. There is a stack of Fenty Beauty campaign printouts piled high on her desk awaiting her approval; a flood of unanswered emails from Fenty team members in various time zones, all happily waiting on her too. Right now, though, there is a more pressing issue on the agenda, one that demands her full attention: Rihanna has decided that it’s time to fix my love life.
“So wait, you’re on a dating app? You don’t seem like the dating-app type,” she says as her almond-shaped green eyes peer into my iPhone. “Come sit here; you gotta teach me how to do this swipe thing.” Rihanna is all curled up in a cozy hotel bathrobe and has a pair of comfy Fenty Puma slides on her feet, and yet she radiates flawless glamour—hair tousled in loose waves, skin luminous. Though I have taken great pains to put together what I think is a Rihanna-worthy look—Jacquemus blouse, vintage Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo pants—it’s hard not to feel like a tarnished penny next to a freshly minted gold coin as I sidle up to her on the sofa. Rihanna asks if she can take a look through the photos on my app, and I oblige. “What is that dress? Is that vintage Jean Paul Gaultier?” she asks, pausing on my profile picture, a bathroom selfie taken in a swanky Hollywood hotel. “You better werk, girl; you look gorgeous!” I do my best to play it cool, but the little fangirl inside me is freaking out. Hanging out with Rihanna is every bit as fun as her costars in the upcoming Ocean’s 8 movie make it sound: You know you’re in the presence of a superstar, but it’s like you’re chatting with an old friend. “It’s a combination of being starstruck and being immediately put at ease,” explains Sandra Bullock. “She also has this warmth, and when she shines it on you, it makes you feel pretty damn amazing!”
Before long, we’re on the hunt for potential suitors. “This guy is too pretty—if you’re pretty, you at least gotta have wrinkles,” Rihanna says, sizing up a male-model type who’s posing bare-chested on a surfboard. And so we’re on to the next. “OK, and this one is giving me Charlie Manson. No?” I nod in agreement; psychopaths are not an option. After swiping through a dozen profiles or more, she lands on a good one. “Now, this is your type!” she says. She’s not wrong: This man is scruffy but handsome, age appropriate (36), and appears to be gainfully employed (an actor, not my first choice, but hey, nobody’s perfect). “He looks smart, he’s British, and he’s got edges!” (Translation: He’s got all his own hair.) She swipes right, and a message pops up almost instantaneously on the screen: It’s a match! We both throw our heads back and start screaming with laughter.
But don’t be fooled: The giddy highs and lows of singledom are fast becoming a distant memory for Rihanna. Right now, she’s in a relationship. “I used to feel guilty about taking personal time,” she says, “but I also think I never met someone who was worth it before.” Though she’s reluctant to talk about her partner by name, rumors have been swirling around her connection to Hassan Jameel, a young Saudi businessman, since paparazzi photos of her vacationing with a handsome stranger in Spain made the rounds last summer. These recent romantic developments are, however, part of a much bigger sea change for Rihanna, who turned 30 this year. For the first time in her life, she’s fully committed to a healthy work-life balance. “Even mentally, just to be away from my phone, to be in the moment, that has been key for my growth,” she says. “Now, when I come to work, I’m all in. Because before you know it, the years will go by. I’m glad I’m taking the time. I’m happy.”
On the heels of the insanity of making a blockbuster movie, Rihanna somehow managed to launch Fenty Beauty in collaboration with Kendo, LVMH’s incubator for cool new makeup brands, last September. Leading with a range of foundations that cover a full spectrum of skin tones (there are 40 different shades), the brand shook up the beauty industry in ways few currently within it could have predicted, prompting a broader conversation about inclusivity that had long been ignored. The success of her cosmetics line was unprecedented, reportedly racking up a staggering $100 million in sales within 40 days. The wait lists at certain makeup counters continued for months. (I was among hundreds of women who lined up outside Harvey Nichols in London last fall, only to find that my shade had already sold out.)
Rihanna was initially taken aback by the response. She had grown up watching her mother apply makeup, so thinking about foundations for darker skin tones came naturally. “As a black woman, I could not live with myself if I didn’t do that,” she says. “But what I didn’t anticipate was the way people would get emotional about finding their complexion on the shelf, that this would be a groundbreaking moment.” She’s taken the same approach with Savage X Fenty, her direct-to-consumer lingerie line in partnership with online retail giant TechStyle launching May 11th, offering a range of nude underwear that goes far beyond the bog-standard beige T-shirt bra. She’s not alone in questioning the limited notion of “nude”: Kanye West’s debut fall 2015 Yeezy collection featured a diverse cast of models in flesh-toned looks that encompassed a wide range of colors, from palest white to richest brown. Now Rihanna is pushing that idea one step further, shedding light on the frustrations that many black women face in dressing their bodies at the most intimate level. She has said in the past that her biggest regret about the sheer Adam Selman dress she wore to the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awardswas that she didn’t throw on a bedazzled thong, mostly because the nude undies she ended up in weren’t the right match—“not my nude,” as she points out.
It should go without saying that the new line will carry a body-positive message, too. Rihanna’s lingerie models come in all shapes and sizes; they are real women with real bodies who stand as a refreshing counterpoint to the impossible supermodel dimensions that have defined the look of lingerie for decades. Like Gigi Hadid and Serena Williams, Rihanna has been the target of body-shaming internet trolls. Her public responses have been rare, but when she does brush off the haters it’s usually done with a razor-sharp dose of wit: Last summer she posted a hilarious before-and-after weight-loss meme of the rapper Gucci Mane, a tongue-in-cheek nod to her own fluctuations on the scale. Because what could be more sexy than a sense of humor? “You’ve just got to laugh at yourself, honestly. I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight. I accept all of the bodies,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl, and I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie.”
With just a few more days until its release, Marvel‘s next installment into their cinematic universe, Black Panther, has already started shaping the imaginations of a generation of kids.
London-based Nigerian photographer Àsìkò, who goes by @asiko_artist on social media, decided to highlight this by recreating the sensational character posters with kids inspired by the film. Àsìkò shared a few individual pictures from the series on Instagram and wrote about why Black Panther matters and what it means to him as comic lover.
“As a kid who read comics black panther was one of the very few superheroes I came across,” he wrote. “For a child it is a beautiful thing to see yourself represented in a positive light in pop culture. What is also great is that it’s a hero steeped in culture and heritage and not drug deals or street thugging.”
“The images are inspired by the movie character posters and will be displayed at the BFI on its opening film night this Friday evening,” he added.
Àsìkò wrote that the photos were commissioned by the Talent Agency @lookslikemeuk. On his page, he posted a series of pictures featuring young kids channeling characters from the film, along with captions that include moving letters from fans on why black representation in film matters.
His niece Cherylann O’Garro, who announced the death, said his family did not yet know the cause.
In more than four decades at The Times, Mr. Charles photographed a wide range of subjects, from local hangouts to celebrities to fashion to the United Nations. But he may be best remembered for the work that earned him early acclaim: his photographs of key moments and figures of the civil rights era.
In 1964, he took a now-famous photograph, for Ebony magazine, of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he peered out of the window of his Queens home. In 1968, for The Times, he photographed Coretta Scott King, her gaze fixed in the distance, at the funeral of her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Charles resisted being racially pigeonholed but also considered it a duty to cover the movement, said Chester Higgins, who joined The Times in 1975 as one of its few other black photographers.
“He felt that his responsibility was to get the story right, that the white reporters and white photographers were very limited,” Mr. Higgins, who retired in 2015, said in a telephone interview.
Even in New York, historically black neighborhoods like Harlem, where Mr. Charles lived, were often covered with little nuance, said James Estrin, a longtime staff photographer for The Times and an editor of the photojournalism blog Lens. But Mr. Charles, through his photography, provided readers a fuller portrait of life throughout those parts of the city, Mr. Estrin said.
“Few people on staff had the slightest idea what a large amount of New York was like,” he added. “He brought this reservoir of knowledge and experience of New York City.”
Exacting and deeply private, Mr. Charles came off as standoffish to some. But to others, especially many women, he was a supportive mentor.
“He’s going to give you the bear attitude, but if you look past that he was something else,” said Michelle Agins, who met Mr. Charles while she was a freelance photographer in Chicago and he was working in The Times’s bureau there.
The two reconnected when she joined The Times as a staff photographer in 1989.
“When you’re a new kid at The New York Times and you needed a big brother, he was all of that,” she said. “He was definitely the guy to have on your team. He wouldn’t let other people bully you.”
Mr. Charles took Ms. Agins under his wing, and she was not alone. “I’ve had many women photographers tell me that he stood up for them,” Mr. Estrin said.
That may be because Mr. Charles knew the hardships that came with belonging to a group that was underrepresented in the workplace.
At one Thanksgiving dinner decades ago, Ms. O’Garro said, he tearfully described the pain he felt on arriving at a New York City store for an assignment, only to be asked to come in through a back entrance. She added that while covering the civil rights movement in the South, he would often check the tailpipe of his vehicle for explosives.
Despite those obstacles, Mr. Charles went on to have a long career at The Times, covering subjects including celebrities like John Lennon and Muhammad Ali and New York institutions like the United Nations. In 1996, four of his photographs were included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art on a century of photography from The Times.
Daniel James Charles (he later went by Donald or Don) was born in New York City on Sept. 9, 1938. His parents, James Charles and the former Elizabeth Ann Hogan, were immigrants from the Caribbean, Ms. O’Garro said.
After graduating from George Washington High School in Manhattan, he enrolled at the City College of New York as an engineering student before dropping out to pursue photography, although at the time it was just a hobby. He worked as a freelance photographer before joining The Times in 1964. He retired in 2007.
Mr. Charles never married and had no children. No immediate family members survive, though he was close with his three nieces and one nephew.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C. harbors pieces of history that illustrate the story of the Black experience in America, and now the institution is giving African American families the opportunity to preserve memories of their own, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The museum launched a free program—dubbed the Community Curation Program—which provides Black families with the tools and equipment needed to preserve old photographs and footage by converting them into digital records, the news outlet writes. The program is supported by the Robert Frederick Smith Fund and travels to different cities across the country. The museum also provides the same equipment at the institution in Washington. One of the project’s latest stops was at the Impact Hub Baltimore in Station North, Maryland.
“In a very radical way, we recognize the importance of these vernacular, homemade images, this folk cinema, as an alternate history to the kinds of history that the mass media tells,” museum media archivist Walter Forsberg told The Baltimore Sun. “We wanted to render a public service free of charge because we knew there was a lot of material out there trapped on obsolete formats.”
Krewasky A. Salter, another museum curator, told the news outlet that the museum hopes to include some of the images, footage, and objects in their upcoming exhibitions; stating that the content provided by families will help fill in missing gaps in history. Several families have already taken advantage of the resource. Individuals who have digitized their family mementos say that the Community Curation Program has allowed them to weave their personal family stories into the larger fabric of Black history in a significant way. “These are stories in my family, and now I can share them with others,” said Pia Jordan, assistant professor at the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University, according to the source.
The National Museum of African American History has been dedicated to capturing the essence of all facets of Black culture. The institution is currently working on crowd fundraising for a hip-hop anthology that will delve into the influence of Black music and African American culture on the world.