Pictures with Purpose: A Symposium on Early African American Photography

Pictures with Purpose honors and examines ideas about the meaning and significance of early images of African Americans and works by African American image makers.

The symposium examines the production of early photographs and the many ways photography of black people was melded into every facet of American life. It is inspired by the seventh book in the museum’s Double Exposure photography book series, Pictures with Purpose, that explores African Americans and photography from the 1840s through the 1920s.

Watch the Pictures with Purpose highlight video below featuring two panel discussions from the event:

This symposium and the conservation of 23 photographs in Pictures with Purpose have been funded through a generous grant from the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.

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Event Schedule Event Participants
Photograph of a girl reading  early 20th century
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture