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  • Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard

    William Bullard, James and Jeannie Johnson Family

    October 14, 2017 - February 25, 2018

    Itinerant photographer William Bullard left behind a trove of over 5,400 glass negatives at the time of his death in 1918. Among these negatives are over 230 portraits of African Americans and Native Americans mostly from the Beaver Brook community in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rediscovering an American Community of Color features eighty of these unprinted and heretofore unpublished photographs that otherwise may have been lost to history. Bullard identified over 80% of his sitters in his logbook, making this collection especially rare among extant photographic collections of people of color taken before World War I and enables this exhibition to tell specific stories about individuals and recreate a more accurate historical context. Moreover, Bullard’s portraits examine the role of photography as the vehicle for a “new Black identity” during the nascent years of the New Negro movement. Offering a photographic narrative of migration and resettlement in the aftermath of Emancipation and Reconstruction, Bullard’s portraits address larger themes involving race in American history, many of which remain relevant today, notably, the story of people of color claiming their rightful place in society as well as the fundamentally American story of migration, immigration, and the creation of a community in new surroundings

    Related Programs

    Saturday, October 14, 12pm: Musical tribute to Bullard portrait sitter and musician David T. Oswell by his descendents, Raymond T Jackson, D.M.A. (piano), Emma Jean Boyd (violin) and Joshua Allen Boyd (cello).

    Thursday, October 19, 5:30-8pm: Reception with cash bar. 6pm: Master Series Third Thursday including performance by Native American flute player Strong Eagle Daly and art talk by Maurice Wallace, Ph.D., Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies, University of Virginia.

    Programs are free with Museum admission.

    Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard was organized by Nancy Kathryn Burns, associate curator of prints, drawings and photographs, and Janette Thomas Greenwood, professor of history at Clark University, working together with Frank Morrill, collector, researcher, and steward of William Bullard's remarkable negatives.

    Rediscovering an American Community of Color was organized in partnership with, and with support from, Clark University. The Museum extends its gratitude to Mass Humanities, the McMillan Stewart Foundation, Fallon Health, and Stephen J. Javaras and Robert A. Collins for their financial support. This project is also funded in part by the Hall and Kate Peterson Photography Fund. In addition, Frank J. Morill generously provided the Museum with the Bullard negatives and years of dedicated research. Finally, the Museum thanks the members of the community and descendants of Bullard's sitters who offered advice, told stores and filled in crucial gaps that deepened the power of these portraits.

    Mass Humanities - A Commonwealth of IdeasClark University

    Rediscovering an American Community of Color is sponsored by:

    Fallon Community Health Plan

    Above: William Bullard, James & Jennie Johnson Family, 1894-1918; printed 2016, E.132.16.10

    Selected Images:

    Portrait of Ralph Mendis on a Stoop, about 1902 Portrait of the Jackson Children, about 1900 David T. Oswell with his Viola, about 1900
    <em>Portrait of Lillian, Cora and Luvenia Ward,</em> about 1900 Portrait of Reuben Griffin Seated against a Tree, about 1901 Raymond Schuyler with his Children, about 1904


    Press Release