In 1965, 16-year-old Doug Keister acquired 280 glass plate negatives, originally found at a local garage sale. He immediately made prints from some of the plates, revealing powerful, early 20th-century portraits of African Americans in Lincoln, Nebraska. These astonishing images are now on display in a virtual exhibition curated by Keister, Black and White in Black and White: Images of Dignity, Hope, and Diversity in America. The online exhibition is hosted by the Loveland Museum from October 8th – November 19th. The exhibition can be accessed at: www.thelovelandmuseum.org/black-white-in-black-white/.
Black and White in Black and White features striking photographs attributed to African American photographer John Johnson. Using his Lincoln neighborhood as his canvas, Johnson crafted these ennobling images of his friends and family between 1910 and 1925. Equally as important as Johnson’s depictions of African Americans are his images of multi-racial groups, an occurrence that was almost unheard of at the time.
The Smithsonian Institution recently acquired 60 of these photographs for their collection. Michèle Gates Moresi, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, underscores the importance of Johnson’s work: “They speak to a time and a place where African Americans were treated as second-class citizens but lived their lives with dignity…You can read about it and hear people talk about it, but to actually see the images is something entirely different.”