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Lisa E. Rivo

photographer, filmmaker, author, and composer, was born Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks in the small prairie town of Fort Scott, Kansas, to Andrew Jackson Parks, a dirt farmer, and Sarah Ross, a maid. Gordon was the youngest of fifteen children, the first five of which, he later discovered, were really half siblings, born to his father and a woman other than his mother. Parks's poor Kansas childhood, and his memories of its unbridled racism, feature prominently in his later work, especially his books “thick with those memories.” The first phase of Parks's life ended with the death of his mother in 1928. “Before the flowers on my mother s grave had wilted Parks remembered my father had me on a train to my sister in Minnesota I ran into some hell there Russell 145 Within a month of his arrival in Minneapolis ...


Deborah Willis

The first known African Americans to practice the art and business of photography were Jules Lion, James Presley Ball, John B. Bailey, Augustus Washington, and the Goodridge Brothers, between 1840 and 1850. They worked as daguerreotypists, documentarians, artists, and studio photographers. The larger American public was fascinated with the daguerreotype as soon as Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851) publicized the process in France in 1839. The French inventor Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833) produced the earliest extant photographic image, made by a camera obscura in 1826. After the death of Niépce, Daguerre successfully fixed an image and announced to the Paris press his discovery, which he named after himself, the daguerreotype, in January of 1839.

Newspapers in the spring of 1839 published accounts of Americans experimenting with the daguerreotype process. On August 19, 1839 Daguerre publicly announced the process ...


photographer and entrepreneur, was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, the second of six children of John VanDerZee and Susan Elizabeth Egberts. Part of a working-class African American community that provided services to wealthy summer residents, the VanDerZees (sometimes written Van Der Zee or Van DerZee) and their large extended family operated a laundry and bakery and worked at local luxury hotels. James played the violin and piano and enjoyed a bucolic childhood riding bicycles, swimming, skiing, and ice fishing with his siblings and cousins. He received his first camera from a mail-order catalogue just before his fourteenth birthday and taught himself how to take and develop photographs using his family as subjects. He left school that same year and began work as a hotel waiter. In 1905 he and his brother Walter moved to New York City.

James was working as an elevator operator when he met a seamstress ...


Amy Helene Kirschke

The examination of African American history and culture must necessarily include an extended exploration of the visual arts—an African American “visual vocabulary”—that examines how African Americans visually define their own collective identity and historical identity. W. E. B. Du Bois, the towering black intellectual of the twentieth century, stated that history must be explored and felt in order to know the responsibilities of the present; imagery was and is a part of that history. Past and present would meet in this imagery with frightful intensity and authentic tragedy. Art could be a means of trying to establish a new memory of the black American experience, and in doing so, discovering an identity both American and African.

Black society and white society saw the same events differently and then also recalled them differently African American visual artists had to be empowered with political rights and access to political power which ...


Jared T. Story

photojournalist and commercial photographer, was born Ernest Columbus Withers to working-class parents, Earl and Pearl Withers, in strictly segregated Memphis, Tennessee. When Withers was nine his mother died, and his father, a truck driver and driver for the postal service, married Minnie Clay. Withers credits Minnie, who was a seamstress, with helping him to develop the keen sense of detail that is evident in his photographs. Withers's first foray into photography occurred when, as a freshman at Manassas High School, he borrowed his sister's camera to photograph a visit to his school by Marva Trotter Louis, wife of the boxer Joe Louis. Withers began photographing other school and community events. He began to think seriously about photography as a profession after marrying his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Curry, in February 1942 and starting their family of eight children in 1943.

In 1943 ...