Thursday, June 25, 2015

9 Iconic Photographs from African American History

Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection serves as a view into the dynamic history of Americans of African descent. The book featuring 60 photographs from a broad range of African American experiences, each thematic volume includes introductions by some of the leading historians, activists, photographers, and writers of our times. Many of the images in the series are by famous photographers such as Spider Martin, Gordon Parks, Ernest C. Withers, Wayne F. Miller, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“The book essentially reflects the vastness and the dynamism that is the subject matter for the museum,” says Rhea Combs, Curator of Film and Photography at the museum, who led the team that distilled a collection of 15,000 images into the 60 photographs that make the book. While future books will delve into more specific themes in African American history, like the civil rights movement and African American women, the first book takes a sweeping look at more than 150 years of the vast and varied set of African American experiences in America.

Here, TIME magazine has selected 9 iconic photographs from the book.

Photographer Zack Brown shooting dapper men in Harlem, ca. 1937. (Eliot Elisofon—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin)

Elks Parade, Harlem, 1938. (Jack Manning—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Estate of Jack Manning)

African American Jewish Congregation in Harlem, children studying, 1940. (Alexander Alland—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Alexander Alland Jr.)

An afternoon game at Table 2, from the series The Way of Life of the Northern Negro, 1946-1948. (Wayne F. Miller—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Wayne F. Miller)

Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Matty Brescia, Jackie Robinson, Martin's Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, 1953. (Ernest C. Withers—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Ernest C. Withers Trust)

Althea Gibson holding a Wimbledon trophy plate, July 1957. (Michael Cole—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Michael Cole Cameraworks/All Rights Reserved)

Douglas Burns, Charles Henry Sayles, and Alfred A. Neal sitting on a porch swing, 1958. (Rev. Henry Clay Anderson—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

James Baldwin by his typewriter, Istanbul 1966. (Sedat Pakay—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Sedat Pakay)

A boy in front of the Loews 125th Street movie theater, 1976. (Dawoud Bey—Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Dawoud Bey)

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