Willard Bullard was a professional photographer who took thousands of images of people and places in Worcester, Massachusetts, between the years 1894 and 1914. The collection was purchased by historian Frank Morrill. When Morrill’s granddaughter noticed that one of the photos included an image of an African American, he dug deeper into the archives and discovered that there were approximately 200 images that included people of color.
Morrill contacted Janette Greenwood, a professor of history at Clark University in Worcester, who had conducted research on the migration of former slaves to Worcester, for help in identifying the people in the photographs. Professor Greenwood is the author of First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1862-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
Since the beginning of the year, they have identified three-quarters of the African Americans in the photographs using Bullard’s documents, Census records, and other historical documents. Professor Greenwood said that the photos “reflect a real interest, a real respect for this group of people, which is uncommon at the time.”
Professor Greenwood and Morrill have created a blog detailing their work and the progress they have achieved in identifying people in the photographic archive.