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Rare Photo Collection Highlights 19th Century Black Women Activists

Rare Photo Collection Highlights 19th Century Black Women Activists

Josephine Silone Yates via Library of Congress
Josephine Silone Yates via Library of Congress

A recently digitized collection of rare photos at the Library of Congress (LOC) highlight black women activists of the 19th century.

In a post published on the Library of Congress website, Beverly Brennan wrote about how the photos were unearthed and who they once belonged to — Howard University Law School professor William Henry Richards, who taught at the school from 1890 until his retirement in 1928. In 2013, the Library acquired the collection from the descendants of William C. McNeill, his physician at the end of Richards’ life, as well as a Howard University faculty member.

Brennan, who serves as the curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division at the LOC, wrote that the collection “includes portraits of people who joined him and others working in the suffrage and temperance movements and in education, journalism and the arts. Among them were women who were in the public eye, active in a variety of professions and causes.”

The portraits of women included in the collection are Maria “Molly” Baldwin, an educator and civic leader; Elizabeth Carter Brooks, an activist and educator; Emma Azelia Smith Hackley, an activist and singer; Hallie Quinn Brown, an activist and educator; and Lillian Parker Thomas, a journalist.

Although you can find images of these women online, what makes these different is that they show them at an earlier age.

A couple of months back a post-Civil War portrait of Harriet Tubman was unearthed. The photo was taken in Auburn, New York, where Tubman bought land in 1859 from Senator William H. Seward. The picture shows Tubman seated, wearing a black blouse with an overlapping white collar and a white patterned skirt.

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The album in which the picture was found, was recently for $161,000. The album had an estimated sale price of $20,000 to $30,000 but ended up being sold for $130,000 along with a $31,000 auctioneer fee.

Check out images from the rare collection here.

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