About the African-American Photography Collection

Scope notes from the finding aid on the MS.2129 collection:

This collection consists of sixty-three photographs of African Americans living in Knoxville taken between approximately 1900 and 1910. Nearly all of them are posed portrait or group photographs, and most are either mounted for framing or enclosed in the paper envelopes provided by the photographer. Several also have writing on them identifying the individual(s) shown and/or the studio that created the image.

These photographs are particularly interesting because many of them show educated and successful African-American men and women living in the Mid-South long before the doctrine of segregation was officially repudiated. For example, this collection contains a number of photographs of a dentist named Dr. Boyd, who maintained an apparently successful office in Knoxville at this time. Another photograph shows a young woman named Pauline Fagg in a cap and gown, indicating that she had completed either a high school or a college education, a particularly unusual accomplishment for an African-American woman at that time. A number of family portraits are also included in this collection, providing an interesting glimpse into an underrepresented side of early twentieth century life in Tennessee.