Rare Photos of 19th-Century Blacks Speak to Modern Americans

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press

In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, an 1891 portrait of Albert Jones and John Xiniwe, sitting for an unknown photographer for the London Stereoscopic Company, is displayed with other portraits made in studios across Britain in 19th and early 20th century in the show "Black Chronicles II," as they are hung at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art in Cambridge, Mass. The show runs from Wednesday, Sept. 2 through Friday Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Some faces are pensive; others are proud. Some are known; others are obscure. All are black.

Rare, striking and never-before-seen portraits of black citizens in Victorian-era England are going on display for the first time in the U.S., and organizers say the photographs have a powerful message for contemporary Americans riven by racism.

“There’s a healing aspect to seeing these exquisite images,” said Vera Ingrid Grant, director of the Cooper Gallery of African & African-American Art at Harvard University. The show, “Black Chronicles II,” opens there Wednesday and runs through Dec. 11.

“It changes our perceptions of the past, and can reverberate and change how we view the present,” she said.

Researchers found the trove of glass plates wrapped in brown paper and tied with string in storage at London’s Hulton Archive. Originally snapped well over a century ago and an ocean away, they debunk any notion that Britons of African heritage were all but invisible in 19th-century society.

Life-size black-and-white prints are interspersed with small snapshots, some culled from privately owned collections. They show ordinary people and a few minor celebrities posing for portraits in their Sunday best. Sequential shots capture a few playfully mugging for the box cameras that …read more

Source:: Black America Web

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