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30 Rare Portraits of African American Life in 1900

Many American students have been taught about the landmark 1900 World’s Fair held for 7 months in Paris and attended by more than 48 million people. Far less known is the Exhibit of American Negroes, coordinated by three African American men — scholar W.E.B. Dubois, assistant librarian at the Library of Congress Daniel Murray, and lawyer Thomas Calloway.

The purpose of the exhibit, which was housed at the World’s Fair, was to showcase African American life, achievement and contributions to society. Dubois described it as “an honest straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves. In a way this marks an era in the history of the Negroes of America.”

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The exhibit included more than 500 photos as well as black scholarly work, official paperwork displaying black inventions and documentation on the progress of blacks since the Civil War.

The exhibit came at a difficult time for African Americans. Slavery had been abolished just 35 years earlier, and lynchings were at an all-time high. Not surprisingly it was largely ignored by mainstream American newspapers. Nonetheless it is a fascinating picture of African American life at the turn of the century.

3a38971r-600x524Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., 1900 – dining hall

3a51595r-600x4865 female Negro officers of Women’s League, Newport, R.I.

3b01479r-600x456Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans, La.

3b02657r-600x441Group of Children from the Model School, Fisk University, Nashville Tenn.

3a40809r-600x469Howard Univ., Washington, D.C., ca. 1900 – elementary school students exercise

3c03812r-600x484Howard Univ., Washington, D.C., ca. 1900 – elementary school students exercise

08778r-600x429Four African American women seated on steps of building at Atlanta University, Georgia

3b11189rAfrican American girl, half-length portrait, with right hand to cheek, with illustrated book on table

3c24866r-600x486African American children posed for portrait on a porch

3c32449rKindergarten at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia.

banner_3c32448r_resized-600x344Sewing class at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia

3c24830r-600x482African American women holding umbrellas to provide shade from the sun, with two men, and with a building (church or meeting house) in the background

3c24831r-600x484African American boy standing with horse attached to plow

3c24867r-600x483Two African American children feeding chickens in a fenced-in yard

3c24860r-600x483African Americans standing outside of a church

3c24828r-600x485African Americans in church in Georgia

3c24818r-600x484Two African American children with a dog in Georgia

08779rAfrican American man giving piano lesson to young African American woman

08755r-600x509African American boy seated on porch of house, another African American boy standing with bicycle on porch of another house, with two young African American women on steps, Georgia

08764r-600x499African American men and women posed for portrait on steps

08762r-600x501African American family posed for portrait seated on lawn

3c24911r-600x484Members of the First Congregational Church, Atlanta, Georgia, posed outside the brick church

3c26751r-600x485Roger Williams University–Nashville, Tenn.–Normal class

3c24894r-600x485Houses on unpaved street in Georgia

3b44533r-600x441Leigh Street Pharmacy, Richmond, Va.

3c09102r-600x481Company D, 8th Illinois Volunteer Regiment

3g10673r-600x479

David Tobias Howard, an undertaker, his mother, and wife, Atlanta, Georgia; seated in a horse-drawn carriage with tree-shaded house in background

3c24821r-600x485Two African American children feeding chickens in a yard in Georgia

3c14268r-600x481African American man and woman, half-length portrait, standing in barnyard

Wow! Ladies, what are your thoughts? You can see more photos and documents here.

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