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Black History in Photos - The New York Times
by Eve M. Kahn
Thursday, May 26, 2011
BLACK HISTORY IN PHOTOS
African-American families have been descending on the San Diego History Center for the last few months, leafing through mid-20th-century photographs of their ancestors and relatives. The History Center owns about 30,000 negatives and prints by Norman Baynard, a self-trained African-American photographer, and is now trying to identify his clients.
Mr. Baynard ran a photo studio in the Logan Heights neighborhood of central San Diego. (After his death in 1986, his son Arnold gave the archive to the History Center.) Mr. Baynard was colorblind, so his wife, Frances, occasionally hand-tinted his black-and-white shots. He kept somewhat haphazard records, jotting down customers’ names on index cards.
Generations of families hired him to document baptisms, weddings, baseball games, choir performances, grocery store ribbon-cuttings, political fundraisers, airport arrivals and funerals. His upwardly mobile patrons posed alongside their new cars, swimming pools, backyard citrus trees and diplomas.
Visitors to the History Center have been supplying captions for an exhibition of 500 images that opens next Friday: “Portrait of a Proud Community: Norman Baynard’s Logan Heights 1939-1985.” Many of the families portrayed, the staff has learned, moved to San Diego from the segregated South.
Harrowing tales have surfaced, including that of a 12-year-old girl’s arriving alone on a bus with her money sewn into her clothes, and of a grandfather who had been run out of Arkansas for trying to unionize sharecroppers.
“Themes kept emerging about escaping racism,” said Chris Travers, the director of the center’s photograph collection.
Read the story in The New York Times.