elaine_smattie_sm king_sm

As a magazine editor, I always portrayed the faces and features of colored folk. One cannot realize today how rare it was in 1910. . . . In many great periodicals, it was the standing rule that no Negro portrait was to appear and that rule still
holds in some American periodicals.

-W. E. B. Du Bois


One important means of improving African American morale in the face of degrading stereotypes was the celebration of black humanity, beauty, individuality, and achievement exemplified in portraiture. With The Crisis, the magazine founded by W. E. B. Du Bois for the NAACP in 1909, African American portrait photographs became a fixture in the Negro press, some also making their way into mainstream magazines and newspapers.

This section presents inspiring and dynamic portraits of black Americans—shot by famous photographers, both black and white and by local African American photo studios during the period of the modern civil rights movement.


Image Credits/Captions (Click on thumbnails for full image)

David Moses Attie. Lorraine Hansberry, c. 1960. Gelatin silver print. 13 5/8 x 10 ¾ in. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG 93.92

Elnora Frazier. Elaine Williams, Houston, c. 1965. Later digital print. 10 x 8 in. Texas African American Photography Archive

Moneta Sleet. Coretta Scott King with Daughter at Funeral, April 9, 1968. Later digital black-and-white print. 9 7/16 x 9 in. © Bettmann/CORBIS