Incredible photos from the early 20th century were included in a bold and spectacular Parisian exhibition designed to promote racial equality in the aftermath of the American Civil War.
About 120 years ago, African-American scientists, writers, and intellectuals faced a race against the clock to build and present a display that would be seen by tens of millions of people and that could change the course of history .
In 1899 the American-American lawyer Thomas Calloway had an idea for an exhibition for the upcoming 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris.
Realizing that eyes all over the world would be on the City of Lights – and the beautiful metal tower under construction by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel that would serve as an entrance – Calloway found that the grand event would be an ideal platform for almost African American society four decades after the end of legal slavery.
He immediately turned to librarian Daniel Murray and his former college classmate and prominent intellectual activist W.E.B. Du Bois for its long-awaited & # 39; Exhibit or American Negroes & # 39; to curate.
The notable photos were a class of smartly dressed black academics who graduated from Howard University, Washington DC, a sisterhood of nuns outside of a New Orleans church, and a group of hard-working journalists in the Planet newspaper, Richmond, Virginia .
In addition to photos and portraits of a cross-section of the African-American population, the exhibition included books and patents held by black makers, and dozens of graphs, charts and drawings that outlined the demography and economic situation of black people in 1900 .
A musical ensemble from the US. This photo was exhibited at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World Exhibition) in Paris. Music would be a release for many equal rights activists in the coming decades. With four months to go before the start of the Exposition, Thomas Calloway demanded and received approval from Congress and $ 15,000 to create his vision
A black student is standing next to his white colleagues who are conducting a laboratory experiment. This image was used in the exhibition to promote racial equality more than 30 years after the American Civil War
A group of African Americans are preparing for the church. A call for funds was announced and an enormous amount of material – mainly photographs – flooded the Thomas Calloway office, each with a small snapshot of life in the US for black citizens at the end of the 19th century
Impeccably dressed black students with top hats and tails graduate from law studies at Howard University, Washington DC in 1900
Described as & # 39; the only Negro version of its kind & # 39 ;, Gardner is proudly standing outside its repair shop in Chicago. The exhibition showed that a disproportionate number of African-Americans were doing low-skilled and low-paid agricultural work, where their intellectual skills would often be wasted
Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans. The American Civil War had put an end to slavery, which was abolished legally in 1865. These photos were recorded about three decades later
Printing time: Staff work on the latest edition of the Plant newspaper in Richmond, Virginia. Photographs with a high degree of black Americans were weighted because the creators of exhibitions wanted to promote their fellow Negroes who were just as worthy and accomplished as their white peers.
Sgt. John Lawson with his war medals. A collection of portraits of African-American subjects was included in the exhibition
An African American music teacher plays his profession. Unfortunately, although welcomed as a miracle in Paris, the exhibition did not deliver the social change the organizers had hoped for
Black students in a scientific laboratory at Howard University. The exhibition hoped that African-American people & # 39; inferior & # 39; were to challenge, as scientists suggested at the time. The prevailing scientific thought suggested that African Americans were inherently inferior to Anglo-Americans, and Du Bois, Calloway, and Murray wanted to dispel this prejudiced prejudice.
A nurse student is wearing a starched white uniform, sitting in a rocking chair, reading. The exhibition hoped to show how far the black community had come since the abolition of slavery
Mr. Dodson, jeweler in Knoxville, Tennessee. A large percentage of black workers were employed in low-paid agricultural work, since work in other sectors was rarely in progress
Boys and girls, some happier than others, pose on a porch for a portrait. Although it was widely praised by the participants and judges of Exposition Universelle as a success, the exhibition drew only a small number of headlines in Europe and even fewer in the United States
Prominent intellectual activist W.E.B. Du Bois was an important curator for the exhibition. He was disillusioned by the lack of impact in the US, where it was barely registered with the American media
A photo of the prize-winning exhibition in Paris 1900. Despite the crowds – and Du Bois almost unable to attend his own exhibition due to a lack of money – & # 39; The Exhibit of American Negroes & # 39; in the Palace of Social Economy during the Universelle exhibition
This portrait of an African-American woman was also included in the portrait section. In the course of his eight-month run, more than 50 million people visited the exhibition and won numerous awards, including a gold medal
Visual data was also available at the exhibition. This piece, compiled by the University of Atlanta, shows how the numbers of slaves fell rapidly after the North won the Civil War. Other examples showed the high levels of poverty experienced by the majority of the African-American community
A publication from the early 19th century celebrates & # 39; The Exhibition of American Negroes & # 39 ;. The organizers admitted that they were deflated, their hard work was no longer generally recognized. Race relationships remained a focal point for many Americans in most of the 20th century. Today the exhibition of American Negroes is housed in the Library of Congress in the US.
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