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

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

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 Rediscovering an American Community of Color features eighty of these unprinted and heretofore unpublished photographs that otherwise may have been lost to history.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.

Press

The Brooklyn Rail
Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917
By Andrew Holter, February 7, 2018

Elin Spring Photography Blog
Amazing Grace!
By Elin Spring, February 6, 2018

The Bay State Banner
A Record Survives: Photographs reveal Worcester's historic African American community
By Susan Saccoccia, January 10, 2018

Observer.com
Long Lost Photographic History of People of Color on Display in Worcester
By Margaret Carrigan, January 2, 2018

Worcester Magazine
Rediscovering an American Community of Color
By Joshua Lyford, December 21, 2017

Take Magazine
William Bullard: A Look at Worcester's Community of Color
By Rachael Crossley, November 27, 2017

Necn.com
Post-Civil War Portraits of Black Americans on Display (NBC Boston News Report)
October 26, 2017

Dailymail.co.uk
Adjusting to life as free people: Collection of portraits of African American families in the early 1900s revealed
October 21, 2017

Wbur.org
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

Pdnonline.com
William Bullard's Portrait of Worcester
October 13, 2017

Clark University
Clark partners with Worcester Art Museum to revive a rich, yet underexposed, history
By Meredith Woodward King, October 12, 2017

The Boston Globe
Opening a window on Worcester's past
By Cate McQuaid, September 8, 2017

Press Release

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 logo McMillan Stewart Foundation logo Mass Humanities logo

Sponsored by:

Fallon Community Health Plan

Media Partner:

Worcester Magazine

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
Portrait of Lillian, Cora and Luvenia Ward, about 1900 Portrait of Reuben Griffin Seated against a Tree, about 1901 Raymond Schuyler with his Children, about 1904

University Collaboration

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
   

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