“Print culture” includes all forms of printed text and printed visual communication – including books, newspapers, photographs, advertisements, and print art. African Americans not only participated in the creation of this material in general (including contributing to several printing press and photographic innovations) but also documented themselves and others. I wasn’t able to make the African American Expression in Print and Digital Culture conference in Madison a few weeks ago, but the attendees did an excellent job of live-tweeting and sharing links. I used that as a start to put together this list of links for writers who want to use real, actual, history as a reference for their fiction. Rather than make assumptions about what African Americans wore, did, or were involved in at any point in our country’s history, you can instead find out for yourself.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has an amazing collection of images online, searchable and sorted by galleries. You can find it here. You might particularly be interested in these galleries:
- The Lewis R. Arms collection – photographs from a multi-racial family, mainly in the 1940s and ’50s.
- Neighborhood House, Wisconsin’s only settlement house, served a diverse ethnic community from 1916 to the 1960s.
- Singer Advertising Cards, featured “costumes of all nations” for 1892 World’s Fair; ex. “Zululand group”
- William Donahey’s “Teenie Weenies” – a collection of cartoons beginning in 1912, which often included African Americans (examples: here, here, here, here, here), Native Americans, and Chinese.
Through the Lens of Time: Images of African Americans from the Cook Collection – digital collection of over 250 images of African Americans dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, housed at Virginia Commonwealth University
Black History resources at The National Archives – massive collection of photographs, documents, and links to other material online
Texas African American Photography Archive – founded by Alan Govenar and Kaleta Doolin:
The TAAP archive provides a broad overview of African American photography in the urban and rural areas of Texas, spanning the period from the 1870s to the present and representing a variety of processes and makers. The Archive is unique in its comprehensiveness, and consists of over 50,000 photographic negatives and prints and more than 20 oral histories collected from African American photographers. Most of the items in the Archive have been donated by the photographers and their families, while others have been acquired from private collections.
Library of Congress – enormous searchable online archive (link goes to “African American”)
Western Reserve Historical Society – photograph collections, many online. Also includes newspaper and microfilm collections, as well as historical information
Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection – “This extensive collection contains more than 12,000 photographs depicting African American life from as early as the 1840s through the 1970s.” Housed at Emory.
Pratt Library’s African American Resources
Early Caribbean Digital Archive – “a highly interactive digital scholars lab for the collaborative research and study of pre-C20 Caribbean literature”, includes an archive of digitized texts, and invites scholars to engage with and contribute to the work. Not strictly African-American, it nonetheless represents an important resources for writers working with slave and immigration stories (as well as those writing stories with Caribbean characters). Three online exhibits:
- Early Caribbean Slave Narrative – art, photographs, and digitized texts of “dictated and written testimonies of enslaved black human beings”
- Foodways of the Caribbean: Introduction – “multiple stories of how food production and consumption is represented across the colonial West Indies”
- Obeah and the Caribbean – “history and practice of Obi in the Caribbean” (in progress)
Colored Conventions – digital archive of black political and community organizing in the 19th century. Mainly includes transcribed minutes from events, excellent bibliography here. Site is in progress; plans include maps and data tables (to be added Fall 2014).
Race and the Design of American Life – “African Americans in 20th Century Commercial Art”. U of Chicago Library exhibit documenting the way African American bodies are used to sell everything from food to shoes to music.
Burrell Communications Group – Wiki article on 1970s ad agency established specifically to market to African Americans,
and to tap into how the Black Aesthetic could also appeal to the general market consumer. It was at this time that Tom Burrell coined the phrase, “Black people are not dark-skinned white people.”
“Black Printers” on White Cards: Information Architecture in the Database of the Early American Book Trades, the American Antiquarian Society Blog, Molly Hardy – lists a number of African American printers active in the trade in the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries
Books to check out:
Print Culture in a Diverse America (History of Communication), James P Danky (Editor), Wayne A Wiegand (Editor)
The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought, Edited by Rhondda Robinson Thomas and Susanna Ashton
Early African American Print Culture, Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein, Editors
Representing the Race, A New Political History of African American Literature, Gene Andrew Jarrett
The African American Church Community in Rochester, New York, 1900-1940, Ingrid Overacker
All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, Martha S. Jones
This list is intended as a starting place and is by no means exhaustive. Please add your own suggestions in the comments below.