The Negro Exhibition Complied by WEB Du Bois

Negro Exhibition Diagram, 1900 Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Souls of Black Folk is now available in so many different editions that it is impossible to keep track of them all plus their various additions to the text but The Illustrated Souls of Black Folk edited and annotated by Eugene F. Provenzo Jr. is a particular favorite of mine because of its use of photographs and other materials stemming from The Negro Exhibition, which Du Bois compiled for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

Du Bois's purpose was to document for the world the economic and educational advances African Americans had made since their Emancipation from slavery in the United States of America. That Du Bois used photography the way he did at the turn-of-the century had much to do with recent advances in the technology of photography and its popularization via the blossoming popular culture of world's fairs and the related media of the illustrated press, journalism, postcards and film.

Cameras and the film needed to produce photographs were becoming increasingly accessible in middle class and working class communities. Providing the services of a photographic studio where one could purchase a portrait of oneself or of one's family was becoming a popular business in urban black communities as well as in cities all over the world of every description.

These photographs Du Bois commissioned and compiled of black businesses, black churches, black schools, and their occupants were the beginning of a trend in African American popular culture that would continue from the turn-of-the-century through the 1960s. As other media would increase in popularity in mainstream American culture, photography would not be displaced in black communities until much later because blacks had significantly less access to the mainstream of popular culture as represented by the corporatization of film, television, publishing and the mainstream press.

Only since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s have blacks had even hypothetical access to "mainstream" media. What they had instead was a separate press, separate towns, schools, and a largely separate (but not equal) popular culture, albeit in all aspects of performance, particularly musical performance. Ironically, with the success of the Civil Rights Movement came the collapse of much of this separate culture. As is common with popular culture generally, a lot of it has been lost without documentation partly because little value had been placed on it before.

With the rise of a computer technology and the internet, the possibility of making available to researchers generally the record that does survive has intersected with the rise of an audience which values these materials.

Among the textual materials supplementing Souls in Provenzo's version are:

1) "The Emancipation Proclamation"
2) "An Act to Establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees"
3) Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Speech" (a portion of which is included on the spoken word cd)
4) Du Bois's essay "The Talented Tenth"
5) Booker T Washington's "Nineteenth Annual Report of the Principal of Tuskeegee Normal and Industrial Institute"
6) Ida B. Wells' "Tortured and Burned Alive"; "
7) Du Bois's Atlanta University Report on "The Negro in the Black Belt"
8) Du Bois Crisis editorial "Colored Men Lynched Without Trial"
9) Selections from Du Bois' The Philadelphia Negro10) Thomas Wentworth Higginson's "Negro Spirituals"

The quality of illustration is very poor but the choices are interesting and instructive at least to me, never having had minimal access to any of this material prior to the rise of the internet and the two years I spent at Cornell University as a Visiting Professor, which gave me my first real access as an insider to a world class research library since the time I briefly spent in the early 80s at Yale University.

 Provenzo reproduces via photocopy some of the actual pages of Du Bois's exhibition, some actual images and photographs taken from the pages of The Crisis, the journal Du Bois created under the auspices of the NAACP founded in 1906. Provenzo also includes sheet music covers, political cartoons and illustrations, and 19th century photographs taken from publications dealing with topics discussed in The Souls of Black Folk.

Professor Eugene Provenzo is also the author of a particularly useful reconstruction of the Negro Exhibition online at http://www.education.miami.edu/ep/Paris/home.htm.  As he notes although much of the material contained in the Exhibition are available in the photo archives of the Library of Congress there are some missing pieces.

Wiliam Edgar Burghhardt Du Bois, "The American Negro at Paris."  The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol. XXII, New York, November 1900, #5, pp. 575-577.


Jim Crow Cartoon

Don't know anything yet about the origin of this cartoon but I got it from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow site produced by PBS for a documentary and book of the same name. This illustration appears in the book as well but in black and white. In the documentary, it is in full color but it goes by in a flash, owing probably to its provocative nature. When such an image is exhibited today, no one wishes to take responsibility for the thought it seems to express.
In any case, it isn't entirely clear what the illustrator is getting at. The point of view is conflicted it seems as reflected by the stereotypical way in which the woman who is speaking by virtue of her language in dialect and the portrayal of her features. On the other hand, freedom is the subject of the cartoon with clear illustrations that all the benefits of society are closed to her by the practice of segregation in the South, and that the creator of the cartoon disapproves of such restrictions on the former slave's freedom.
It is often assumed that the stereotypical portrayal of blacks or the portrayal of blacks by whites in black face equals hatred for blacks and the belief that they are intellectually and socially inferior but what is considered superior in a woman at this time: she's dainty, frail, helpless and useless, to be placed on a pedestal. She has no vote and for the most part she is restricted from working. Her freedom is her husband's to give and take. Whereas this particular black woman is a large, strong, independent figure. Mentally she is easily baffled but physically she is obviously well endowed. So therein lies the conundrum of racism. What does the racist want? We're never quite sure.
I would date the cartoon at some point after Reconstruction heading toward the turn-of-the-century or immediately after.

Negro Exhibit at the Paris Exposition

This link will take you to a selection of photographs from the Negro Exhibition as composed by W.E.B. Du Bois (the author of our first book--Souls of Black Folk) and installed at the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1900. The entire collection of photographs are publicly available online at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

These several hundred photographs are composed of a variety of image types. They include 1) portraits of graduating classes at black colleges, individual three-quarter portraits, images of run-down black communities, successful black businesses, buildings of black colleges, black businesses and black churches. Not much is known about most of the photographers who took the pictures or the people in the photographs but Deborah Willis has related that which is known at the website at the Library of Congress. And I am sure there will be more information forthcoming as people learn of these images from 1900.

These photographs were composed and exhibited just three years before DuBois published Souls of Black Folk, and no doubt his perspective had not significantly changed in that length of time. The response of most of the leading citizens of the black community to Jim Crow segregation and genocide was to build a separate set of resources and communities in which every effort was to provide equal facilities especially for the young people of these communities. These photographs document that effort. Nonetheless, the tragedy of this period is that the "separate but equal" approach only resulted in more inequality at every conceivable level. Citizens protect their rights through the use of the ballot. Without the ballot any minority population is defenseless and will incur outright hostility rather than support.

The Sorrow Songs in Souls of Black Folk

Little of beauty has America given the world save the rude grandeur God himself stamped on her bosom; the human spirit in this new world has expressed itself in vigor and ingenuity rather than in beauty. And so by fateful chance the Negro folk-song—the rhythmic cry of the slave—stands to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas. It has been neglected, it has been, and is, half despised, and above all it has been persistently mistaken and misunderstood; but notwithstanding, it still remains as the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903
These words are taken from the final essay in Souls on the Sorrow Songs, or the Slave Spirituals. He regards the spirit of African American culture as most epitomized by these anonymous songs composed improvisationally by the slaves, themselves, as they became Christians in a New World of deprivation and torment. While he isn't yet ready to include all of African American music and culture in his highest claims for the "Sorrow Songs," nonetheless he poses the question and the problem of racial differences one last time in this essay.

The silently growing assumption of this age is that the probation of races is past, and that the backward races of to-day are of proven inefficiency and not worth the saving. Such an assumption is the arrogance of peoples irreverent toward Time and ignorant of the deeds of men. A thousand years ago such an assumption, easily possible, would have made it difficult for the Teuton to prove his right to life. Two thousand years ago such dogmatism, readily welcome, would have scouted the idea of blond races ever leading civilization. So wofully unorganized is sociological knowledge that the meaning of progress, the meaning of "swift" and "slow" in human doing, and the limits of human perfectability, are veiled, unanswered sphinxes on the shores of science. Why should AEschylus have sung two thousand years before Shakespeare was born? Why has civilization flourished in Europe, and flickered, flamed, and died in Africa? So long as the world stands meekly dumb before such questions, shall this nation proclaim its ignorance and unhallowed prejudices by denying freedom of opportunity to those who brought the Sorrow Songs to the Seats of the Mighty?
Passage also taken from "Of the Sorrow Songs" in Souls of Black Folk.

     African American music has a tendency toward spiritual inflection and in such cases listening is like being in a time machine. In some cases it seems almost as though the chords or the tone transports the listener back into the history, in particular of slavery and Jim Crow persecution.  This seems to me the case regardless the rendition of presentation--whether it is gospel, primitive ring shout or operatic (as it was with the original Jubilee singers and subsequent performance groups).  "Authentic" American music and folk culture is made up of a mysterious amalgam of black and white, sacred and profane, formal and vernacular.  Du Bois' elitism in this regard signals the always present anxieties of the determination in African American pronouncements on the topic.


Chronology: 1861-1909

1861--Southern States form Confederacy in response to election of Abraham Lincoln as President. Civil War begins.
**Confederate States/Territories:Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, California, Louisiana, Indian (later Oklahoma) and New Mexico Territories--a total of 14
**Union States/Territories:New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, West Virginia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Rhode Island, Maryland, District of Columbia, Washington, Utah, Nebraska and Colorado Territories--a total of 28

1863--Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate "rebellious" states "forever free." 186,000 African Americans enlist during the final two years of the Civil War.

1865--Unions wins the Civil War. Lincoln assassinated. Southern states enact "Black Codes." Congress passes 13th Amendment outlawing slavery.

1866--Congress passes 14th Amendment granting citizenship to African Americans. Reconstruction begins. Ku Klux Klan formed in Tennessee. Congress authorizes four black units to fight Indians in the West. Dubbed "Buffalo Soldiers" by Native Americans.

1868--W.E.B. Du Bois born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts only child of Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt.

1869--Congress passes 15th Amendment giving black men the vote.

1870-1871 Congress passes Federal Ku Klux Klan Acts to protect black voters.

1875--The State of Tennessee is the first to institute Jim Crow (segregation) Law.

1877--Federal Troops withdraw from the South; Reconstruction ends.

1880--60,000 "exodusters" leave Nashville for Kansas to escape Jim Crow.

1880--Slavery abolished in Cuba.

1884--European nations convene in Berlin and divide the continent of Africa into colonies.

1884--Du Bois graduates from high school, the only black student in a class of 13.

1888--Slavery abolished in Brazil.

1890--Du Bois awarded B.A. cum laude in philosophy at Harvard. Begins graduate school at Harvard in political science. Frances Harper publishes her novel IOLA LEROY.

1890-- (Jim Crow Law) Segregation is made law in the state of Mississippi. Begins to use literacy tests to disenfranchise black voters.

1892--Du Bois visits 12 year old Helen Keller (blind and deaf child) at her school in Boston with the philosopher and Harvard Professor William James (brother of Henry James).

1892--Ida B. Wells begins her anti-lynching campaign in response to the lynching of three of her friends in Memphis, Tennessee.

1893--Colombian Exposition in Chicago: Frederick Douglass headquarters at Haitian Pavilion with Paul Lawrence Dunbar as his assistant; Dahomey Village inspired IN DAHOMEY, a Broadway show by Bert Williams and George Walker; the debut of Nancy Green as Aunt Jemima, the pancake queen. Henry O. Tanner's "The Banjo Lesson" is included in the American art exhibition.

1895--Atlanta Compromise speech by Booker T. Washington at the Cotton Exposition, describing racial segregation as an opportunity and black suffrage as not yet necessary. Du Bois who is the first black man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard in this same year, writes Washington a note: "Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success at Atlanta--it was a word fitly spoken."

1896--(Jim Crow) Segregation made law in the state of Louisiana. Plessy v. Ferguson, U.S. Supreme Court upholds Jim Crow Law as constitutional.
The decision stated, "The object of the 14th Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the war, but in the nature of things it could not have intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either."

1897--Du Bois helps to found the American Negro Academy. Delivers address, "The Conservation of Races," calling on American blacks to serve as the "advance guard" of black racial development globally "and to maintain a separate identity within American society." Becomes professor of economics and history at Atlanta University.

1898--Spanish American War. Black soldiers played a major role in the winning of the Battle at San Juan Hill, which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. victory against the Spanish led to the American possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and the Caroline islands, in one of the most poorly understood episodes in U.S. history.
Link: http://www.spanamwar.com/AfrcanAmericans.html

1898--Wilmington Massacre, in which Dixie Democrats violently remove Republicans from office and prevent blacks from voting.

1899--Charles Chesnutt's THE MARROW OF TRADITION published. Portrays in a novel the Wilmington Massacre.

1899--Sam Hose accused of murder and lynched in Atlanta. Du Bois recognizes that activism is unavoidable.

1900--Segregation (Jim Crow Law) begins in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

1900--WEB Du Bois travels by steerage to the Universelle Exposition in Paris to install the Exhibition on the Progress of African Americans. Receives gold medal. Attends first Pan-African Conference in London, and delivers speech in which he first says, "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line."

1900--Pauline Hopkins writes and edits THE COLORED AMERICAN, an illustrated African American journal, in Boston. She also publishes her novel CONTENDING FORCES.

1901--Article defending the Freedmen's Bureau, which will later become a chapter in SOULS is published in the Atlantic Monthly in March.*

1903--WEB Du Bois publishes THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, which brings him to national prominence and makes public his opposition to Washington's views.

1906--In homage to John Brown, the Niagara Movement first meets at Storer College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.

Detail from racist postcard from Rare Books, Manuscripts and Special Collections Library, Duke University, p. xii in THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW by Richard Wormser, Companion Volume to PBS Series, St. Martins Press 2003.

1903-1909--Jim Crow practices (segregation) spread from Kansas to Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and New Jersey.

1898-1909--Major race riots in Atlanta, Georgia; Wilmington, NC; Ft. Riley, Kansas, New Orleans, Louisiana; Ft Riley, Illinois, Greensburg, Indiana, Springfield, Ohio; New York, NY.

Course Readings--Section I

Basic Readings taken from---(REQUIRED TEXT)


  Chapters I, III, IV, V, VI, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and The After-Thought


Negro Exhibit at the Paris Exposition (1900):
Archival reconstruction by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., School of Education, University of Miami

African American Photographs Assembled for the Paris Exposition of 1900:
Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress




Preface, Chapters I, II, V, X, XIV, XVII, XXI, XXIX, XXXIX, XL, XLI

Preface, Chapters I, II, II, VIII, X and XII

Booker T. Washington, UP FROM SLAVERY (1893); Chapters I, II, III, XIV


Ezekiel Saw De Wheel, Go Down, Mose, Been in the Storm So Long, Steal Away to Jesus, Soon I Will Be Done

Gospels--This Little Light of Mine, Take My Hand, Precious Lord


Picturing US History: Online Teaching Resource

An interactive resource for teaching history with visual evidence, http://www.picturinghistory.gc.cuny.edu includes a wonderfully lengthy list of links to American visual and cultural history online. The riches that are available here are constantly expanding. Most major universities now have such a portal gathering together and constantly adding the growing list of visual culture resources. This is our very own home grown CUNY resource at the Graduate Center. I strongly suggest drawing upon its riches as often as possible.

The latest edition is a website of the work of the important American artist Winslow Homer. There has been increasing interest in Winslow Homer, not only for his wonderful work portraying important episodes in American history, such as the Civil War and its aftermath, but also because he did such extraordinary paintings of African American and Afro-Caribbean subjects.

Frances Benjamin Johnston--Sheridan's Ride

Frances Benjamin Johnston, Children in Kernstown. 1900, Library of Congress.
comparison w/James Bland, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny--Sheet Music Cover 1906.

A few years back at the annual meeting of the College Art Association at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, I came across a little lady whom as I recall was distributing from a table a set of illustrations related to the photography of Frances Benjamin Johnston.  As it turned out this was Geraldine Wojno Kiefer, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Art History and Art at Shenandoah University.  Perhaps the year was 2004.  I had just moved back to the New York area, was just beginning to probe the mysteries of the powerpoint application.  I was in the process of teaching then my Talking in Pictures course looking at the intersections of race, gender and American photography.  It was already clear that Johnston was a major figure in that world for a number of reasons.  First because of her historical pictures of students and faculty at historically black colleges, including Tuskegee and Hampton, as well as her major input as a woman photographer at the turn-of-the-century and her participation in photography exhibits at various world's fairs.

I have been browsing the PowerPoint's she gave me that day on and off since then, and picked them up again as the Hampton Album came up in its rightful place alongside Du Bois's Negro Exhibition at the Paris Exposition of 1900.  Using Johnston's work has been difficult for me for the simple reason that she was white, and African American photography is by definition something that only an African American can do.  Yet here was Johnston right in the middle of photography of historical black schools at the turn-of-the-century.  Obviously she was a racial voice (or as some prefer to say for some reason, "racialized"), but was she perhaps on the wrong side of things?  Most scholars I have read have concluded as much but I still am not sure whether the subjectivity of the photographer is among the most important things we can say about a photograph.  A photograph can be a work of original art but it isn't necessarily.  Even if and when it is a work of art, it is also a technological intervention.  And, significantly, it is a form of evidence.  

Especially Johnston's photographs were decidedly evidential in their conception and execution.  In order words, they were deliberately designed to function as evidence.  Helping to convince me of this is the study of Kiefer's PowerPoint presentations on Johnston's contribution to a photo-essay called "The Country of Sheridan's Ride" published in The Ladies Home Journal
It is composed of a centerfold layout of a series of pictures houses and landscapes along the route of General Philip Sheridan's 1864 ride to Winchester, along the Valley Turnpike between Winchester and Middletown in Virginia as part of a successful Union campaign in the Civil War.  
Johnston's photographs of the roads, lakes, toll bridges, landscapes, houses and children (many of them black) as they were in 1901, participating in a national campaign of memorializing the landscape of the Civil War, honoring the history and commodifying its recovery.  Kiefer worries that Johnston was helping to further mystify the racial significance of the Civil War in favor of a racist romanticism emphasizing the healing of relations between white Northerners and Southerners.  But the thing I notice about it, as well as much of the celebration of the conclusion of the war prior to 1910, was the focus was on Union victories and a Northern interpretation of events.  It seems to me that the David Blight reading of the cult of the Lost Cause is actually something that emerges as a distinct problem subsequent to the successes of Thomas Dixon's plays "The Leopard's Spots" and "The Klansman," and it really explodes with the hit of D.W. Griffith's collaboration with Dixon on The Birth of a Nation.

Left: Log House in Giles County, Photographs, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.
Right: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Photographs.  In The Ladies Home Journal, Vol. 18, No. 8 (July 1901), 17.

Left: Henry Fenn, Richmond. Wood Engraving.  Picturesque America in The Land We Live In, ed. William Cullen Bryant, Vol. I, New York: D. Appleton Company, 1872, 80.

Center: Harry Fenn, A Glimpse of Charlestown and Boy from the Town of St. Michael's Church. Wood engraving. Picturesque America. Vol I., 201.

Right: Frances Benjamin Johnston, The Children 1901.

Frances Benjamin Johnston Photos of Children, 1900.  Library of Congress.

Left: Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1st Toll Gate out of Winchester.
Center: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Snicker's Gap, Tollgate.  Along the Road.  At Stop at a Tollgate. Right: Town, Now Steven's City.  Tollgate Road. 1900.

Double Spread Layout in Ladies Home Journal, 1901.  Nostalgia for Sheridan's Ride in the Civil War, romanticizing the victory of the Union over the Confederacy in the Old South.