Cornell University recently received the donation of nearly 2,000 photographs of African Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The collection was donated to the university library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection by Beth and Stephan Loewentheil. The collection includes images of slaves from the antebellum South as well as celebrities from the recent past. Among the more notable photographs is one of Martin Luther King Jr. sitting in a jail cell.
The undated photograph from the collection featured here, shows a young African American shoe shiner outside a library on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
“Certainly, African-Americans were fighting for justice in this country, but at the same time, they were celebrating births and graduations and marriages, mourning deaths, holding family reunions, buying new homes and cars and clothes — the stuff of everyday life,” said Katherine Reagan, curator of rare books and manuscripts. “Those things can be easily overshadowed, but this collection provides a window into the lives of men and women who are so frequently underrepresented in the historical record.”