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Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.

The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.

As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.

Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...

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Patricia Hunt-Hurst

one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.

The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

artist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Thomas Freeman and Sarah Freeman. Following his father's death, in 1877 he and his sister Delilah moved with their mother to Washington, where Freeman attended Washington, D.C., public schools and excelled in drawing and painting. It is not known if he finished high school. He held a variety of jobs, including laborer and waiter, to help support the family.

In 1885, at the age of seventeen, Freeman started to advertise his services as a painter in addition to art framer and bicycle repairman. Gradually he began to pursue a career as an artist and photographer. His early work consisted of pastel drawings of Washington's elite African American community. His most famous portraits were of the Washington lawyer John Mercer Langston, completed in 1893, and of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1895 That ...

Article

John Gruber

photographer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and attended Howard High School in Chattanooga. His parents were King and Hattie Murfrees Ganaway. Ganaway did not go to college, although his sister, Mamie Egester, graduated from college in Chattanooga. He worked as a butler from 1906 to 1925 for Mary A. Lawrence, the widow of Edward F. Lawrence, a prominent Chicagoan, who lived on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago's “Gold Coast.” During these years, he tried to revive a childhood interest in drawing, but frustrated with his efforts, he turned to photography. He was self-taught, spending his off days perfecting his photographic skills.

Ganaway's photo, “Spirit of Transportation”—an image of two sections of a passenger train, the 20th Century Limited, arriving in Chicago on a cold day in February 1918 captivated the media when it won the first prize in the fifteenth annual exhibition of photographs at ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

A privately owned firm based in Chicago, Illinois, the Johnson Publishing Company was created, built, and run by John H. Johnson (1918–2005) and for much of the twentieth century was consistently listed as one of the top black-owned businesses in America. The success of Johnson's publishing empire was thanks in large part to the weekly Jet magazine and its big-brother monthly publication, Ebony, the two most popular black magazines in America. With Ebony (founded in 1945) and Jet (founded in 1951), Johnson created the black-oriented print advertising market and proved that commercial black magazines could be successful. By the early twenty-first century the company reported twenty-seven hundred full-time and part-time contracted employees, consultants, and associated employees in eleven nations on two continents.

The first office of Johnson Publishing Company was a corner of the second floor office of the black owned Supreme Liberty Life Insurance ...

Article

Jacqueline M. Smith

African Americans began producing and exhibiting photographs the year after photography's inception in 1839. Long-standing creators and consumers of visual technologies, blacks have used photography to document and explore the diversity of African American experiences.

The sociopolitical dynamics of legalized slavery, antiblack sentiments, and economic expense limited enslaved persons’ opportunities to capture or commission their likenesses—the visual rendering of the original subject or what we now consider a photograph. Despite institutional limitations placed on blacks’ physical and economic agency, free persons of color such as Sojourner Truth (c. 1797–1883), an antiracism activist and feminist suffragist, and Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), a prominent abolitionist and newspaper editor, circulated their photographic likenesses in the form of cartes de visites and cabinet-card portraits. Similarly circumventing U.S. racial segregation, James Presley Ball (1825–1905), Augustus Washington (1820–1875 and the Goodridge brothers active 1860s 1880s were among the ...

Article

crystal am nelson

photographer and businessman, was born in Florida. As a young man, he worked with his father as a stevedore while taking correspondence courses in photography. At the beginning of the twentieth century—the specific date is unknown—he married Wilhelmina Pearl Williams, a native of South Carolina, who helped Roberts open the Gem Studio in Fernandina, Florida. The two had four children during their time in Florida: Gerald Ermerson, Beverly Nash, Cornelius C., and Wilhelmina. In 1920, when Wilhelmina's health began to suffer from Florida's humidity, the couple moved to her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, where their fifth child, Miriam was born They purchased a small house equipped with electricity and plumbing both luxuries for southerners at the time In the backyard were a barn and a smaller house the latter of which the family used as storage space for Roberts s photographic equipment ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer and entrepreneur, was born in the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the son of Addison Scurlock, a successful photographer and the proprietor of Scurlock Studios, and Mamie Estelle Fearing, the receptionist and business manager of Scurlock Studios. George and his three siblings grew up in Washington, not far from their father's studio, which was founded in 1911. As young men, George and his brother Robert Scurlock apprenticed with their father and developed into accomplished photographers, later taking over the family business, which they operated for more than four decades. Scurlock Studios became one of the nation's most successful black businesses. George attended Garrison Elementary and Garnett-Patterson Junior High School. All of the Scurlock children attended Dunbar High School, considered one of the top black schools in the country. Robert graduated in 1933, and Addison, who was named for his father, graduated in 1932 having ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Ann M. Shumard

abolitionist, photographer, and Liberian statesman, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Christian Washington, a former slave from Virginia who operated an oyster saloon, and a woman who is identified only as a native of South Asia. She apparently died soon after his birth, for his father remarried in October 1821. Washington was raised in Trenton and until early adolescence attended school with white students. When access to such schooling ended in the face of growing racism, he was left to continue his education on his own. He worked for his father for several years, studied intermittently, and became an avid reader of Benjamin Lundy's Genius of Universal Emancipation and William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator These papers aroused Washington s hatred of slavery and racial prejudice and inspired him to become an activist Eager to contribute to the uplift of his ...

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Eunice Angelica Whitmal

daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and devoted Christian, was the primary subject of the famed African American photographer Gordon Parks Sr. In Parks's famous photograph American Gothic, a scathing reinterpretation of Grant Woods's classic painting of that name, Ella Watson, holding a mop and broom, stands in front of an American flag hanging on a wall in a government office. The photograph is a searing representation of the discrimination and segregation that many African Americans encountered regardless of their gender or class position.Behind Watson's famous image was a woman with a challenging, albeit obscure, life story. Parks recalled several details Watson shared with him during an informal interview:

She began to spill out her life s story It was a pitiful one She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob She had gone through high school married ...