Featuring the Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs

Sojourner Truth. Copyright 1864. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.08978

Sojourner Truth. Photo, copyright 1864. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.08978

I find one of the remarkable things about portraiture is the ability to observe individuals just like us in a time so different. A sparkle in the eyes or tilt of the head can feel so familiar. Whether it be the portrait of a family member or of someone with a common cultural heritage, the image can be a way to connect with the past and relate to those who came before us.

As February is African American History month, it seems apropos to shine a light on one of our major collections that features portraits of African Americans. Acquired in 1995, the William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs provides nearly 350 images showing African Americans and related military and social history. The collection primarily covers the Civil War era, with a few examples through 1945.

Probably one of the most recognizable items in the collection is a portrait of abolitionist and activist Sojourner Truth (see right). The collection also draws public interest for its holdings of Buffalo Soldiers, freed slaves, and World War I soldiers, to name a few. Various scenes of homes and war grounds add context to the portraits, as well. Below, take a look at a range of compelling images selected from the collection by Prints and Photographs Division staff:

Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn. Photo by American Missionary Association, between 1870 and 1880. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11008

Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn. Photo by American Missionary Association, between 1870 and 1880. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11008

Half-length portrait of an African American woman wearing a hat and holding parasol. Between 1861 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11090

Half-length portrait of an African American woman wearing a hat and holding parasol. Photo, between 1861 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11090

Three-quarter length portrait of an African American woman posed with book] / Bostwick, 98 Sixth Ave., N.Y.. New York : Bostwick, between 1880 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11360

Three-quarter length portrait of an African American woman posed with book / Bostwick, 98 Sixth Ave., N.Y. Photo, between 1880 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11360

Portrait of two unidentified African American children. Between 1865? and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.10996

Portrait of two unidentified African American children. Photo, between 1865? and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.10996

African American man and child, full-length portrait, facing front. Photograph by Bundy & Williams, Middleton, Conn. between 1860 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11286

African American man and child, full-length portrait, facing front. Photo by Bundy & Williams, between 1860 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11286

World War I soldier with American flag in background. Between 1914 and 1918. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11404

World War I soldier with American flag in background. Photo, between 1914 and 1918. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11404

World War I soldier, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, with two hats on table. Between 1917 and 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11464

World War I soldier, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, with two hats on table. Photo, between 1917 and 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.11464

You can browse nearly 350 faces and places from the past, as the entire Gladstone collection is digitized and available in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Do you connect with any Gladstone images in particular?

Learn More:

Two brothers in arms. Tintype between 1860 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.13484

Two brothers in arms. Tintype, between 1860 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.13484

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