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

THU, OCT 19, 2017

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 Rediscovering an American Community of Color features eighty of these unprinted and heretofore unpublished photographs that otherwise may have been lost to history.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

+ BIO: Maurice Wallace

Maurice Wallace is Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia, specializing in African American literature and cultural studies. He is also the Associate Director of UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. At the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, Maurice is the co-leader of the Race, Faith, and Culture Project and is a primary contributor to the Vocation and Common Good Project.

Wallace earned his PhD from Duke University in 1995 and his A.B. at Washington University in 1989. His first book, Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men’s Literature and Culture, 1775-1995 (Duke University Press, 2002), was awarded the MLA William Scarborough Prize for outstanding scholarly study of black American literature. Therein, Wallace examines the ways in which black American males have sought both to realize and to deconstruct America’s ideal portrait of masculinity throughout the centuries via many forms of media (photography, modern dance, theater)—in spite of and in opposition to their simultaneous erasure and scrutiny at the hands of the impoverished American racial imagination.

Wallace also has written extensively on a wealth of subjects: 19th- and 20th-century African American literary and cultural production, 19th-century American literature, slave narratives, black manhood, Civil War photography, race and psychoanalysis, and iconic figures such as Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.

Partner
Worcester Art Museum