ATLANTA -A rare collection of more than 10,000 photographs depicting African American life from the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been acquired by Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) from photo collector Robert Langmuir of Philadelphia.
The images range from the 1840s – the beginning of photography – to the 1970s, with most of the photos falling in the post-Civil War to pre-World War II era. They include nearly every format, from daguerreotypes to snapshots, and cover a wide range of subject matter. A number of the photos were taken by African American photographers, a topic in itself.
“This collection sparkles with intelligent insights into the lives and cultures of the African American experience over many decades,” says Emory University Provost Earl Lewis, also a professor of history and African American studies. “Its breadth is incredible, its depth is considerable, and its sheer beauty is breathtaking.”
Kevin Young, MARBL curator of literary collections and of its Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, calls the collection one of the most remarkable he’s ever seen.
“The archive reveals the richness of African American daily life,” says Young, “from pictures taken by house photographers at nightclubs, to cabinet cards and calling cards of black disc jockeys, to photographs of preachers, blues singers, saints and sinners. No doubt this collection will change the field of African American and American studies.”
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