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Band of 107th U.S. Colored InfantryPhotographs of African Americans During the Civil War: A List of Images in the Civil War Photograph Collection

About the List: Introduction | Organization of the List | Compilation of the List | Content of Entries | Reproductions and Rights
Jump to list section: African American Soldiers | Naval Scenes | "Contrabands," "Freedmen," and Refugees | African Americans in Military Camps and Sites of Military Activity | Other Images of African Americans | Related Subject Matter


This reference aid lists photographs in the Civil War Photograph Collection that include African Americans. Researchers need to be aware of two facts about its compilation:

  1. Images of African American soldiers are not well represented in P&P files. Rather, most photographs show African Americans as civilians attached to the military, and as "contraband" and refugees.
  2. The identification of racial or ethnic characteristics of people in a photograph on visual evidence alone is risky, if not impossible. While it is believed from visual examination that the images on this list show African Americans, there is no way to prove (or disprove) this belief.

Organization of the List

The images are grouped into broad subject categories, based on what can be discerned from the images and the text found on them:

  1. African American soldiers
  2. Naval scenes
  3. "Contrabands," "freedmen" and refugees
  4. African Americans in military camps and sites of military activity
  5. Other Images of African Americans
  6. Images that do not show African Americans, but include related subject matter (e.g., slave pens, white officers of African American troops)

Compilation of the List

P&P staff and a volunteer compiled this list by surveying the Civil War Photograph LOTs--photographic prints grouped by subject matter. In many cases, the photographic prints correspond to negatives in the Library's holdings. (For more information see the Civil War Photographs Background and Scope document in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.) When the Civil War negatives came available in the online catalog, staff matched the entries for the prints to the corresponding negatives, wherever possible, in order to include digital images in the list. In some cases, no corresponding negative was found online; in other cases, variant images were found in this way. The more than 7,000 negatives have not, themselves, been surveyed systematically for additional images of African Americans. Researchers are encouraged to report to P&P reference staff any images that are not listed so that amendments can be made.

Since the compilation of this list, the Library of Congress has acquired additional collections that include photographs of African Americans during the Civil War, including soldiers: the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs and the Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs. Researchers should consult those online collections for additional images on this subject.

Content of the Entries

  • A digital image is included with an entry if one was found online. If multiple digital images are available (e.g., for both the negative and for the print), priority was given to a high resolution scan of the negative or a scan of a color copy transparency made of a print, in preference to a scan of a black-and-white copy negative of the print. The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog may lead to additional versions.
  • Wherever possible, text appearing with the photographic print has been quoted.
  • Citations to three major works are noted as staff encounter reproductions of images in them. The works are:
    • Gardner, Alexander. Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. Reprint. New York: Dover, [1959]. [LC cal number: E468.7.G19] (cited as Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book)
    • Image of War, 1861-1865. 6 vol. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981-1984. [various call numbers] (cited as Image of War)
    • Miller, Francis Trevelyan, ed. Photographic History of the Civil War. 10 vol. New York: T. Yoseloff, [1957] [LC call number: E468.7.M64 1957] (cited as "Miller")
  • The call number indicates where the Division's photographic print is stored. If the entry includes a digital image made from a corresponding negative, the call number for the negative is also cited.
  • Reproduction numbers are included for those needing to order quality copies. For further information about obtaining copies, see the next section.

Reproductions and Rights

Each thumbnail digital image included in the list is linked to display in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog where larger versions of the image are available. Users may download the larger images themselves. The images vary in quality and resolution. In general the Civil War glass negatives were scanned at a high resolution sufficient for most publication purposes.

The entries also cite reproduction numbers used for ordering quality copies from the Library of Congress Duplication Services. If the "Reproduction number" category contains only dashes, no digital scan or negative exists and photography of the original will have to be requested by citing the call number.

There are no known restrictions on publication of images included in this list. For more information, see the Civil War Photographs rights statement.

Jump to: African American Soldiers | Naval Scenes | "Contrabands," "Freedmen," and Refugees | African Americans in Military Camps and Sites of Military Activity | Other Images of African Americans | Related Subject Matter
Prepared by: P&P Staff. Last revised: Dec. 2011.
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  February 17, 2017
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