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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 Exposition.

"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

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