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.

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