Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard
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 Rediscovering an American Community of Color features eighty of these unprinted and heretofore unpublished photographs that otherwise may have been lost to history.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
A comprehensive website hosted by Clark University (www.bullardphotos.org) offers teaching resources for educators, all of the photographs and sitters featured in Rediscovering an American Community of Color, a map of the Beaver Brook neighborhood (circa 1911), and additional research written by the Clark students who participated in a seminar related to the exhibition.
Post-Civil War Portraits of Black Americans on Display (NBC Boston News Report)
October 26, 2017
Adjusting to life as free people: Collection of portraits of African American families in the early 1900s revealed
October 21, 2017
Piecing Together The Past With Images Of A Little-Known Community Of Color In Worcester
By Andrea Shea, October 18, 2017
Antiques & The Arts Weekly
Rediscovered Worcester Images in 'Community of Color'
October 14, 2017
William Bullard's Portrait of Worcester
October 13, 2017
Clark partners with Worcester Art Museum to revive a rich, yet underexposed, history
By Meredith Woodward King, October 12, 2017
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, 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.
Clark University Bullard Experience
Ten students from Clark University spent the spring semester in 2017 connecting with Bullard portrait descendants and doing archival research for the exhibition Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard. The final product of their work appears in extended web entries found at www.bullardphotos.org and in content found on the walls of the exhibition. Each student wrote a short reflection on their experience of working on this project.
Click below to read their words and see their own photographs of the research process.
Nia Slater-Bookhart '19
Stefan Sprinckmoller '17
Halle Smith '19
Emily Art '17
Darice Plumer '17
Charlotte Maxwell '17
Alice Dillon '18
Alex Jeannotte '17
Adelaide Petrov-Yoo '17
Toni Armstrong '18