Many American students have been taught about the landmark 1900 World’s Fair held for 7 months in Paris and attended by more than 48 million people. Far less known is the Exhibit of American Negroes, coordinated by three African American men — scholar W.E.B. Dubois, assistant librarian at the Library of Congress Daniel Murray, and lawyer Thomas Calloway. The purpose of the exhibit, which was housed at the World’s Fair, was to showcase African American life, achievement and contributions to society. Dubois described it as “an honest straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves. In a way this marks an era in the history of the Negroes of America.”
The exhibit included more than 500 photos as well as black scholarly work, official paperwork displaying black inventions and documentation on the progress of blacks since the Civil War.
The exhibit came at a difficult time for African Americans. Slavery had been abolished just 35 years earlier, and lynchings were at an all-time high. Not surprisingly it was largely ignored by mainstream American newspapers. Nonetheless it is a fascinating picture of African American life at the turn of the century.
Home of an African American lawyer, Atlanta, Georgia, with men, women, and children posed on porch of house
Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., 1900 — dining hall
5 female Negro officers of Women’s League, Newport, R.I.
Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans, La.
Group of Children from the Model School, Fisk University, Nashville Tenn.
Howard Univ., Washington, D.C., ca. 1900 — elementary school students exercise
Two African American children sitting on steps to porch
Four African American women seated on steps of building at Atlanta University, Georgia
African American girl, half-length portrait, with right hand to cheek, with illustrated book on table
African American children posed for portrait on a porch
Kindergarten at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia.
Sewing class at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia
African American women holding umbrellas to provide shade from the sun, with two men, and with a building (church or meeting house) in the background
African American boy standing with horse attached to plow
Two African American children feeding chickens in a fenced-in yard
African Americans standing outside of a church
African Americans in church in Georgia
Two African American children with a dog in Georgia
African American man giving piano lesson to young African American woman
African American boy seated on porch of house, another African American boy standing with bicycle on porch of another house, with two young African American women on steps, Georgia
African American men and women posed for portrait on steps
African American family posed for portrait seated on lawn
Members of the First Congregational Church, Atlanta, Georgia, posed outside the brick church
Roger Williams University–Nashville, Tenn.–Normal class
Houses on unpaved street in Georgia
Leigh Street Pharmacy, Richmond, Va.
Company D, 8th Illinois Volunteer Regiment
David Tobias Howard, an undertaker, his mother, and wife, Atlanta, Georgia; seated in a horse-drawn carriage with tree-shaded house in background
Two African American children feeding chickens in a yard in Georgia
African American man and woman, half-length portrait, standing in barnyard
Wow! Ladies, what are your thoughts? You can see more photos and documents here.