Between 1910 and 1925, African American photographer John Johnson captured images of his friends and neighbors in Lincoln, Nebraska, creating dignified yet lively portraits of the lives of Black and mixed-race communities. Johnson's work is representative of the New Negro Movement and the optimistic early part of the 20th century, when hopes for a more equitable and progressive America were high.
In 1965, teenage Doug Keister acquired some of Johnson's glass-plate negatives, which had been found at a garage sale, and developed them into prints. These images (some of which have recently been acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) form the basis of the new virtual exhibition hosted by the Menlo Park Library, "Black and White in Black and White: Images of Dignity, Hope and Diversity in America."
The free exhibition, available online and based on the physical, touring exhibition of the same name, shows people living ordinary, everyday lives but with an emphasis on their "dignity, empowerment and enablement," according to the exhibition text.
Many of the portraits are of family and children, some with beloved pets included. Some subjects hold books, notebooks or letters; showcasing the high value placed on education. There are also groups of people from various ethnic backgrounds working or socializing together which, the exhibition text notes, shows a perhaps surprisingly diverse and integrated population.
The exhibition also includes a playlist of ragtime, jazz and blues music from the time period represented, along with information on photography techniques past and present, colorization and electronic repair, interactive elements and more.
The Menlo Park Library is hosting a number of live events in tandem with "Black and White in Black in White," including film screenings, virtual museum tours and discussions.
The exhibition will be accessible through March 31. More information is available at exhibits.exhibtenvoy.org.