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March 24, 2017

The women who shaped America, in photographs

Unknown; Young women holding a sign which reads, 'Self Supporting Women.' Several other women grouped near the banner are holding balls; 1914. This image has been made available by the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Unknown; Young women holding a sign which reads, ‘Self Supporting Women.’ Several other women grouped near the banner are holding balls; 1914. This image has been made available by the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating women who shaped the political and social landscape of America with a tour of an expansive photographic archive documenting their experiences.

The Schlesinger History of Women in America collection contains 36,000 images from the archives of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. The Schlesinger Library’s collections encompass women’s rights and feminism, health and sexuality, work and family life, education and the professions, and culinary history and etiquette. It documents women’s experiences in America between the 1840s and 1990s and is sourced from donations made to the library, including the papers of many prominent female activists, politicians, and leaders. In making the stories of women’s lives available to all, the library combats assumptions that women’s roles have been tangential in the course of American history.

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March 16, 2017

Addressing the unaddressed: Tuskegee University’s Hidden Audio Collections, 1957-1971

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at the TCA meeting, 1957. Courtesy of the Tuskegee University Archives, P.H. Polk Collection, 2017.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at the TCA meeting, 1957. Courtesy of the Tuskegee University Archives, P.H. Polk Collection, 2017.

Tuskegee University Archives recently released new recordings from the Tuskegee Civic Association records that feature prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. These speeches, addressing the Tuskegee community, fill in historical gaps to illuminate the relationships between leaders and their constituents.

The collection was digitized from reel-to-reel tape under the care of university archivist Dana Chandler and made available through funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Council of Independent Colleges. The recordings are freely available to listen to in Artstor’s public collections.

Artstor staff members Evan Towle and Karyn Anonia spoke with Chandler about his work.

ET: First, can you speak a little about your history with the Archives at Tuskegee?

DC: I’m in my eleventh year. I’d first visited in 1972—my parents brought us down here to see Carver’s laboratory, and I fell in love with the place then. I did not ever expect to work here. The opportunity kind of fell into my lap, and I have been able to, I think, develop the Archives into a viable place for researchers to come from the US and all around the world to work on the materials to fill in some blanks that have been evident for a long time about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the history of Tuskegee as a whole, as well as the work of African Americans, how successful they really were during the time of Jim Crow Laws and laws of segregation.

When you think about Tuskegee, you think about George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington. You think about the Tuskegee Airmen, and maybe something called the Syphilis Study, which did not happen here on the campus. But it is much more than those things. The first Extension Agent to the US Federal Government came from Tuskegee—not just the first black agent, but the first Extension Agent came from Tuskegee University—the first African American Hospital in Alabama; the first school to offer a four-year degree in nursing in Alabama; the first African American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics, Alice Coachman Davis, went to Tuskegee. And believe me, I could go on and on ad nauseam about the stuff that’s here.

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August 14, 2015

Reflections after Ramadan

Herbert Cole, People gathered for Ramadan Festival

Northern Ghana; Yendi: People gathered for Ramadan Festival, 1977, Photographed by Herbert Cole.

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the sound boxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
– Molana (Rumi), Ghazal No. 1739 from Divan-e Shams-e Tabriz

This past June Muslims around the world fasted for the month of Ramadan. The sight of the crescent moon is the mark for the beginning of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. Many friends and colleagues have asked me what Ramadan is about, and I wish to provide them with something deeper than a surface understanding.

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May 21, 2015

La Española: the earliest recorded Blacks in the Colonial Americas

Unknown (Dominican), Saint Nicholas of Bari's Hospital, Santo Domingo, Photographer: Anthony Stevens Acevedo, Image: 2009. Photograph copyright © CUNY Dominican Studies Institute. CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, First Blacks in the Americas collection.

Unknown (Dominican), Saint Nicholas of Bari’s Hospital, Santo Domingo, Photographer: Anthony Stevens Acevedo, Image: 2009. Photograph copyright © CUNY Dominican Studies Institute. CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, First Blacks in the Americas collection.

La Española, the island now divided into the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti, existed first as a Spanish colony during the entire sixteenth century, when its population became the first one in the Americas with a majority of people of African descent. The Black ancestors of today’s Dominicans were the first to experience the dreadful transatlantic slave trade, and the first to offer organized resistance as soon as they landed in La Española. They were also the first to endure and survive all the varieties of enslaved labor and enslaved life, and the first to thrive and produce new generations of Afro-descendants born in the “New World.”

Sixteenth-Century La Española: Glimpses of the First Blacks in the Early Colonial Americas,” a 2015 exhibition at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, presented images of manuscripts, transcriptions, translations, and photographs that tell the story of the earliest Black inhabitants of the Americas. The exhibit included photographs of sites of the Dominican Republic’s colonial past by Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Assistant Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute at The City College of New York, the co-curator of the exhibit and a colonial historian. Dr. Lissette Acosta Corniel, CUNY DSI Post-Doctoral Fellow, was also a co-curator of the exhibit.

The show was an offshoot of “First Blacks in the Americas,” a long term CUNY DSI online project focusing on photographs that were part of the living environment of Black people in that territory during colonial times. Part of the collection is available in Artstor’s public collections, an open-access library of digital media from JSTOR Forum subscribers.

“Sixteenth-Century La Española: Glimpses of the First Blacks in the Early Colonial Americas” ran from May 22 6:30–September 10, 2015 at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, NAC Building Room 2/202, The City College of New York, 160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031.

Editor’s note: this post was updated to reflect changes in Artstor’s platform for public collections.

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April 2, 2015

Hopping through cultures: the rabbit in art

Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Easter is around the corner, and with it comes the inevitable barrage of images of the Easter bunny. The strange thing is that the only mentions of rabbits in the Bible are prohibitions against eating them in the Old Testament. So what gives?

The underlying idea is that rabbits are connected to the idea of rebirth—not only do they reproduce prodigiously, at one time they were believed to reproduce asexually. The connection of rabbits to rebirth also occurs in non-Christian societies: The Rabbit in the Moon (instead of our Man in the Moon) is a familiar symbol in Asia, and was part of Aztec legend, tying the idea of rabbits to a “rebirth” every night. But other qualities of rabbits and hares also get highlighted in folklore, including their mischievous side, playing the role of cunning tricksters in Native American and Central African mythologies.

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September 23, 2014

Curriculum guide: Colonial Latin America

Artstor is introducing curriculum guides–collections of images from the Artstor Digital Library based on syllabi for college courses–compiled by faculty members and experts around the country. Learn more here.

Unknown Spanish artist, Conquest of Mexico; The arrival of Cortes in Veracruz and the reception of Moctezuma's ambassadors, 16th century. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Unknown Spanish artist, Conquest of Mexico; The arrival of Cortes in Veracruz and the reception of Moctezuma’s ambassadors, 16th century. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Colonial Latin America curriculum guide
Rachel Moore, Associate Professor, History, Clemson University

This curriculum guide explores a wide range of perspectives on the colonial period in Latin America. This includes encounters of the Spanish and the Portuguese (as well as the Dutch) with indigenous populations in Mexico and South America. By analyzing these images alongside readings, the student will gain a fuller sense of the mindset of the participants in each historical event and, ultimately, a fuller sense of the historical event itself.

Section 1: The Age of Encounters: Impressions of the New World
Images for this selection address European impressions of the New World in the earliest years of the Spanish encounters with Latin America. Most of these images were produced by those who had no direct contact with Latin America and thus are both fantastical and reflective of pre-contact mindsets in Europe.
View the image group

Section 2: Iberian Precedents: The Legacy of Convivencia in Spain and Portugal
Images for this selection examine in detail the precedents for the conquest of the New World set by the Muslim occupation of the Spanish peninsula from 711-1492 and the subsequent Spanish reconquest of the peninsula. These images include reference to popular figures, such as Santiago Matamoros, and building styles that would appear in Spain and Latin America as a result of the convivencia.
View the image group

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September 2, 2014

Together again: the complete “Migration” series by Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 3: In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry, 1940 – 1941. Image and original data provided by The Phillips Collection, © 2005 Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 3: In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry, 1940 – 1941. Image and original data provided by The Phillips Collection, © 2005 Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Jacob Lawrence painted “The Migration of the Negro,” a series of 60 small panels describing the passage of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North, in 1940 and 1941. The works combined the vibrancy of modernism, the content of history painting, and the urgency of political art. The electrifying results catapulted the young artist into fame and the history books.

Lawrence saw the series as a single work, but a year after its completion the Museum of Modern Art acquired the even-numbered pictures and the Phillips Collection in Washington the others, and opportunities to see all the paintings together have been rare. Which is a pity. As art critic Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times“…only in the complete series can we fully grasp the sinewy moral texture of art that is in the business of neither easy uplift nor single-minded protest.”

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September 20, 2013

Upside down world: Rubén Durán on his photographs of Carnaval

Photographer: Rubén Durán | Creole/Fantasy Influence (Carnival in Dominican Republic) | February or March circa 2009-2010 | Cotuí, Dominican Republic | Photograph © HCC Central College - Rubén Durán

Photographer: Rubén Durán | Creole/Fantasy Influence (Carnival in Dominican Republic) | February or March circa 2009-2010 | Cotuí, Dominican Republic | Photograph © HCC Central College – Rubén Durán

Rubén Durán, Senior Web & Video Developer at Houston Community College Central’s Curriculum Innovation Center, was kind enough to give us a little background on his collection of photographs of carnaval, which were recently released in the Artstor Digital Library.

The riotous, rebellious world of carnaval came to life for me when I traveled to my native Dominican Republic to recapture some of my youth. The result is a collection of 550 images now available in the Artstor Digital Library in collaboration with the Houston Community College Central Fine Arts Division. The vibrant colors document the oldest carnaval celebrations in the Americas and I discovered at the Caribbean crossroads, Creole, Spanish, and African cultures blending with the indigenous Taino people to create festivals unlike any others I’ve seen.

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June 17, 2013

Washington’s Secret City: Cultural Capital

Luke C. Dilton | Colored Women's League of Washington, D.C.; ca. 1894 | Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Library of Congress)

Luke C. Dilton | Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.; ca. 1894 | Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Library of Congress)

Amber N. Wiley, Ph.D. , Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture, Tulane University

Historian Constance Green characterized Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s as the “undisputed center of American Negro civilization” in her 1969 book Secret City: History of Race Relations in the Nation’s Capital. This was America before the Harlem Renaissance, in which the average percentile of the capital’s black population ranged from 25-33% throughout the nineteenth century. This population peaked between 1960 and 1990. This black Washington spans from the antebellum period through abolitionism, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Black Power, Parliament’s “Chocolate City,” and the so-called “post-racial” Obama era.

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