Eartha Kitt (left); Dizzy Gillespie (Ebony Collection)
You’ve heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos have the ability to tell complex stories, convey important information and elicit emotional responses from viewers who may know nothing of the subject matter. One frame can change the world. Think of the iconic photographs that have come to symbolize a movement, a way of being or a slice of life.
Joe Rosenthal’s “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima“; Moneta Sleet Jr.’s “Deep Sorrow,” featuring Coretta Scott King at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.; James Van Der Zee’s photo of black nationalist and pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey; Elizabeth “Tex” Williams’ war photographs; Art Kane’s “A Great Day in Harlem“; Gordon Parks’ “American Gothic“; Carrie Mae Weems’ “Kitchen Table Series“; and Jean Moutoussamy-Ashe’s photo book, Daddy and Me, featuring images of her late husband, tennis legend and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe, with their daughter, Camera.
Photos offer us a peek into unknown worlds and, in some cases, worlds we know all too well. Chronicling our lives and society, they capture history and the profound experiences of a complex world. The Johnson Publishing Co.’s Ebony Collection, now available to the public for the first time, does just that. This historic photo archive offers 2,000 photos taken over the last 70 years, documenting the rich and layered black experience in the United States.