In 1899, WEB DuBois, a man many of us associate with writing, traveled around America, compiling a collection candid pictures of African Americans living their lives at the turn of the century; these images were then sent oversea to Paris, where they were displayed at the Exposition Universelle of 1900, under the name “Exhibit of the American Negroes.”
It’s a harsh name, but where similar shows in the past had othered black people, trying to denote their “difference” from white people, DuBois’ show both showed diversity among black people — a revolutionary concept for some people back then and, sadly, today — and exhibited the stunning banality of everyday black life. Of course, we Americans know that in the background there was hideous racism and the ever-present threat of violence, which makes the composure in and of these pictures all the more remarkable.
Here are 28 of the nearly 400 in DuBois’ show; many of these were taken by DuBois collaborator Thomas E. Eskew, and all were shot in and around Atlanta, some, I believe, not far from where I live now… All were found over at the Library of Congress.
(And for more Found in the LOC, click here.)