Do you think these images make a difference in the way that people view African-Americans?
I had a writer I respect very much call me an image activist. I guess I am, in a way. A lot of images I put up are to counteract things. We have the right to be as mediocre or rachet as anyone else, but let’s not forget our excellence. Let’s not forget our contributions and beauty and our style and our grace and our intelligence. Let’s not forget that. I think it makes a difference if I put up a picture on Veteran’s Day of two Navy men in the 40’s serving their country in a time when they could not get a coffee in most places. I think it’s powerful to put up a picture of Jane Matilda Bolin, the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School. I think that’s its powerful to show Lena Horne at a Paris fashion show in the 50’s. I know some people say ‘I don’t need to see a Black ice skater to know I can skate.’ That’s fine. But some people do.
People often look at Black history in terms of suffering and oppression. Yet these pictures show that people were still accomplishing and achieving even in difficult times.
It’s important to keep it going whether it’s at Vintage Black Glamour or other channels. Part of the reason that John H. Johnson started Ebony magazine was because he wanted people to know that Negroes get married and have parties and weddings and live their lives and go to concerts and shop for shoes just like everyone else. It’s a shame but it’s always a push to recognize our humanity. The typical things that are known about Black History Month are the same things. All Black history is not negative. Even in the midst of those things, people lived their lives. They enjoyed their lives at some point, even in the midst of these terrible things. Not all of our history is depressed and downtrodden. We need to know the fullness of our history and I think learning about the happy, interesting, different parts of it is fun and empowering.
Vintage Black Glamour, the coffee table book, will be released this June. To join the mailing list and be notified about the book’s release, click here.