I received an overwhelming response to the blog post Black Victoriana, so I decided to post more photos of African Americans from way back when. My Black Victoriana post, to date, has received the most views and comments of any other blog post that I have ever done since starting my blog in 2011. My other posts do not even come anywhere near the views and comments that Black Victoriana has received. My main reason for posting those photos is because I wanted people to see African Americans from the late 19th and early to middle 20th century in a different light. It is a way that is how we represented ourselves daily back in the day. We are not a group of people who mostly grew up in ghettos, turned to drugs and did not care about educating ourselves. The reality was quite the opposite. Continue reading →
Their eyes reveal a soulful beauty.
Photos are from the mid 1880’s to early 1900’s. Continue reading →
I had to dedicate a post to Harlem Renaissance photographer James Augustus Joseph Van Der Zee. Born on June 29, 1886 in Lenox, Massachusetts, James Van Der Zee became the most sought after photographer during the Harlem Renaissance period. James Van Der Zee moved to Harlem in 1906. He held a series jobs which included developing photos at Gertz Department store. Van Der Zee also played in the John Wanamker orchestra and Fletcher Henderson’s band.
James’s parents John and Elizabeth Van Der Zee worked for President Ulysses S. Grant. James played several musical instruments, but the camera became his claim to fame. James Van Der Zee took more than 75,000 photographers of Black American life during the Harlem Renaissance. The great migration of Black America to Harlem began in 1915. Black people moved to Harlem from the southern states and some came from the West Indies. The Van Der Zee photo collection is the most extensive depicting every day life in Harlem, New York.
Marcus Garvey in Harlem parade.
The beginning of the great migration
Christmas morning 1933. Notice the beautiful architectural details in this gorgeous Harlem brownstone. Homes like this will never be built again.
Interior Harlem home
On the beach in Atlantic City New Jersey.
The Negro League (The Black Yankees)
1920’s parade on 7th Avenue in Harlem, New York
James Van Der Zee staging a photo taking session.
Marcus Garvey is standing on the right hand side.
Harlem New York
Woman in Harlem home. Her interior surroundings are beautiful and elegant.
Girl in fancy dress 1938
James Van Der Zee’s studio was located on the east side of Lenox Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets. It was called G.G.G. Studio. It was in the above ground basement of a Harlem brownstone.
Today the exterior of tyhe studio can still be seen but one of the G’s is missing.
James Van Der Zee
James Augustus Joseph Van Der Zee and his wonderful legacy of photographs were not “discovered” until 1969 when The Metropolitan Museim of Art held an exhibition of his photographs called Harlem On My Mind. The exhibition brought Van Der Zee fame and much deserved accolades throughout America. Van Der Zee had already retired several years prior to the exhibition but came out of retirement to resume taking photographs again until his passing on March 15, 1983.
I was curious about the subject of black people during the Victorian era. The Victorian era was from 1837 to 1901. A Google search revealed some of the most beautiful photographs of people of African descent during the Victorian period. I am thrilled that these photographs were taken for posterity. It is nice to see people of color so well dressed and put together for those times. These photographs are very important because they document an aspect of black history that is generally never spoken of.
This is a photo of Lady Sarah Bonetta Forbes Davies. Sara was born in West Africa and subsequently captured during the slave trade. Captain Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy gave her the name Sara Forbes. Sara was taken to England and given to Queen Victoria. The Queen immediately noticed that Sara was exceptionally intelligent, and so she took Sara under her wing. Queen Victoria raised Sara as her god-daughter within the British middle class.
When Sara was brought to England as a young girl she developed a cough caused by the climate change. Sara was never able to rid herself of this cough and passed away at age 37 of tuberculosis.