James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake

Picturing Blackness in the 1920s


April 17, 2021October 17, 2021

Location: Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery

This exhibition highlights resonances between the work of James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake, two African American photographers working in the 1920s at the height of the "New Negro Movement." Blake’s postcard portraits of the “Lowcountry” inhabitants of Charleston, South Carolina, juxtaposed with Van Der Zee’s “Big City” subjects in Harlem, New York, reflect a shared ethos of the cultural ferment of the Harlem Renaissance at its height: to document a dignified image of cultural blackness, foster racial pride, and promote an aesthetic refusal to submit to the laws of Jim Crow.