Cornell University Posts Online a Vast Archive of Historical Photographs of African Americans

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has recently made available online its Loewentheil Collection of African American Photographs. The collection was donated to the university by Stephan and Beth Loewentheil in 2012.

The collection includes 645 images, spanning the years from 1860 to the 1960s. Included are photographs of some famous African Americans including Dr. Martin Luther Jr. and Muhammad Ali. But most of the photographs are images of everyday life in the African American community. The collection can be searched by date, geographic location, photographer, and subject matter.

Among the earliest images in the collection is the photograph below showing a group of young African American slaves on a plantation in Louisiana.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Daniel Atkinson says:

    A few of those photos were mislabeled or marked as unknown, like those of Blind Tom, Joe Louis, George Walker, Josephine Baker and Jesse Owens

  2. Sheridan Wigginton says:

    In scanning some of the photographs, item 58 of 645 (“Men and women dancing”) seems to be of non-African Americans wearing blackface. A closer review of the collection may be in order.

    https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:1432141

  3. James Mayes says:

    It is clear that some of the photos are whites in black face. ..why are these included?

  4. michael johnson says:

    what i found interesting was that the blackface photo was “photographed and published” in Littleton New Hampshire not in the “deep south”.

    • Daniel Atkinson says:

      Minstrelsy was the first form of Popular culture in the US and much more so in the North than the South because Southerners did not need it for pacification like Northerners did. In fact, Dan Emmet, the man who wrote “Dixie” was from Ohio and not the south at all. Further, the vast majority of Minstrels were Irish immigrants who lived in the northern states.

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