Wreathed

Woman in daisy field, Library of Congress“Woman with wreath of leaves in her hair sitting in a field of daisies,” ca. 1900, photographer unknown, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This photo was part of a large group of “artistic photographs,” primarily by early women photographers, that was donated to the Library of Congress by Frances Benjamin Johnston. In the spring of 1900, she had used some of these images in an exhibition of work by American women photographers at the Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris.

Life in gardens: Knoxville, Tennessee

dodson-front-yard-knoxville-tn-1899-library-of-congress“Home of C.C. Dodson, Knoxville,” Tennessee, ca. 1899, via African American Photographs Assembled for 1900 Paris Exposition collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Dodson was a jeweler who owned a shop on West Vine Avenue in 1899. ‘Exuberant’ is the word I would use for his family’s front yard.

The photos collected by W.E.B. Du Bois for the 1900 Paris international exhibition particularly featured middle-class African Americans and their homes and institutions. “The photographs of affluent young African American men and women challenged the scientific ‘evidence’ and popular racist caricatures of the day that ridiculed and sought to diminish African American social and economic success,” according to the Library of Congress’s online catalogue.

In 2003, the Library of Congress published a book of 150 of the images, entitled A Small Nation of People.  You can listen to a good NPR interview with its co-author, historian Deborah Willis, here.

Life in gardens: feeding the chickens

Feeding chickens, ca. 1899 Georgia, Library of CongressA fenced-in backyard in Georgia, ca. 1899, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

These photos were included in one of several albums depicting African American life, which were compiled by W. E. B. Du Bois for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Feeding chickens in ca. 1899 Georgia backyard, Library of Congress

There’s a brief history of the American backyard here.  Until the 20th century, it was a space for work, not recreation.

The Sunday porch: Georgia

While he was a professor of sociology at Atlanta University, W. E. B. Du Bois compiled 363 photographs of African American life in Georgia into several albums — which he displayed at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.

The pictures* here, taken in 1899 or 1900, were part of his collection. Click on any thumbnail in the gallery to scroll through larger photos.

Du Bois’s exhibited albums particularly featured middle-class African Americans and their homes and institutions, and dozens of fine individual portraits were included.

“The photographs of affluent young African American men and women challenged the scientific ‘evidence’ and popular racist caricatures of the day that ridiculed and sought to diminish African American social and economic success,” according to the Library of Congress’s online catalogue.

In 2003, the Library of Congress published a book of 150 of the images, entitled A Small Nation of People.  You can listen to a good NPR interview with its co-author, historian Deborah Willis, here.  In it, she mentions porches being photographed for the exhibit, as places “central to family gatherings.”


*All via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.