Historians to discuss Images of
Early African American Life
Event Date: October 29, 2003
Photographic images of African American life at the turn of the 20th century
were the subject of a talk by historians David Levering Lewis and Deborah Willis
at on October 29, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Lewis and Willis’
book, "A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. Du Bois & African American Portraits
of Progress" (Amistad, 2003), is based on the Library’s collection of photographs
showcased in "The Exhibit of American Negroes" at the 1900 Paris International
"A Small Nation of People" features 150 images taken from the complete set
of photographs gathered for the 1900 exhibition by W.E.B. Du Bois, African American
attorney Thomas Calloway and Daniel A.P. Murray. Murray, a son of freed slaves and
assistant Librarian of Congress, was instrumental in building the Library’s extensive collection
of books, pamphlets and photographs demonstrating African American achievements.
The essays by Lewis and Willis shed new light about pivotal events in American history and the
history of photography. The historians also provide the context for the selection of the photographs
showcased in 1900 and explain their importance today.
David Levering Lewis, a professor of history at New York University and is the author
of several books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning volumes "W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for
Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963" (2000) and "W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography
of a Race, 1868-1919" (1993).
Deborah Willis, writes frequently about blacks and the history of photography. Among her latest
books is "Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840-Present" (2000).
She is a professor of photography and imaging at New York University.
The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to stimulate
public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. For information about its forthcoming events and
projects, and the activities of its affiliates in 50 states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at
Center For The Book