In honor of Black History Month, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) docents present photographs of Black families in the United States from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Watch as they share photos found in several public domain archives while discussing aesthetics, cultural context and how photography shapes social representation.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Lena Robinson - Well, hello, good afternoon or good evening. My name is Lena Robinson and I'm the director of community development at First Republic Bank. I'm very pleased to welcome all of you to the special event and recognition of Black History Month. First Republic is delighted to honor and celebrate Black History Month in partnership with the Museum of the African Diaspora based in San Francisco, California. Black History Month as we know it today was preceded by Black History Week promoted by Dr. Carter G Woodson in 1926 to encourage the coordinated teaching of the history of black Americans in the nation's public schools. In 1970, black students and educators at Kent State University expanded upon this idea to celebrate the culture and honor the achievement of African Americans by extending the week to a full month. Black History Month is now celebrated in the month of February by institutions of all kinds, including K through 12 schools, universities, museums, corporation and media. Its recognition has spread beyond the United States to countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland and many more. We are proud together here tonight with you to participate in this great tradition and celebrate this year's global Black History Month theme through photography. The black family representation identity and diversity, which explores the African diaspora and the spread of black families across the United States. I am pleased to introduce one of today's special guests, Mr. Sedey Gebreyes, education program manager at MoAD. But before we do that, a quick housekeeping note, we will answer the questions you submit at the end of the event. To submit a question, please use the Q and A icon at the bottom of the screen. Also, this event is being recorded and the replay will be posted on First Republic website. Now let's give a warm welcome to Sedey. Please take it away.
Sedey Gebreyes - Great, thank you so much. Thank you, at least I thank you for having us here. My name is Sedey Gebreyes. I'm the education program manager and I'm here with my colleagues, Demetri and Remi and I would like to invite them to introduce themselves.
Remi Majekodunmi - Hi, good afternoon, my name is Remi, I am one of the teaching artists here in San Francisco with MoAD. I'm part of the MIC, which is when the artists go into the classroom and work with children in schools and also bring groups of children to the museum.
Demetri Broxton - Hi, and I'm Demetri Broxton, I'm the senior director of education at MoAD and I get to work with these two amazing ladies. And I'm really excited to be here with you today.
Sedey - Thank you both. I'm going to start sharing my screen and then I'll go into what I will share with you today. And before that, I would like to ask all of us to take a deep breath and to stand with us in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Thank you. As many of US are settlers, immigrants or descendants of those forcibly brought to this continent, our institutions were founded upon exclusions and erasures of the indigenous people whose land we are located. With deep respect, MoAD acknowledges that even in virtual space, our people, our work and our network servers, our on native lands and thank the indigenous people of the Bay Area who have stewarded this land throughout the generation. Thank you everyone and welcome. And today we'll be sharing photos of African-Americans from 19th and 20th century. African-American families from 19th and 20th century. And while we look at the photos we'll learn so much about the photos. And we'll also ask you what you know about the photos. So we can experience the arts together. I know that Chad is off but please use the Q and A to let us know your thoughts, your observation. And we'll go in and out reading those so we can experience the art with you. The first photo that we will invite you to see is this one. And Demetri, if you can lead us through looking at this one.
Demetri - Sure and do we have movement on this?
Sedey - We do.
Demetri - Okay, awesome.
Sedey - It's just slow today.
Demetri - Oh, is it just really slow today?
Sedey - It's kind of taking its time, it wants to be seen at a very slow pace, can't control that.
Demetri - There we go. So right now, as this photograph is moving there is a figure that most of you, if not all of you should recognize. And so yeah, if you will please just drop into the Q and A and say who this character is or this person and what you know about him. He is not a character. Yes, Jordan, thank you. Frederick Douglass. All right. Oh, got lots of those in. And if folks can also add what you know about Douglass that would be awesome.
Sedey - Abolitionist yeah, we see that.
Demetri - Yes, Frederick Douglass, the abolitionists. Then do we know anything else about him? Abolitionist, women's suffragists, former slave and abolitionists, orator, an abolitionists, amazing orator. He wrote a famous autobiography detailing his life seeking to end slavery, Rebecca you've got it. And he was a friend to Abe Lincoln. I love the hive mind with this how much knowledge everyone has when there's a collective. Escaped and he came from one of the HBCUs, birthday's in February, yep. Taught himself to read, spoke to Congress to end slavery. Wonderful and he taught himself how to read. Okay, so we have a really solid sense of who he is. And one of the other things about Frederick Douglass that's really important and why we're starting the conversation today with an image of him is that he was the most photographed man in the entire 19th century. Notice I did not say most photographed African-American or black man, the most photographed man period. So, you know, I think it's really important to think about the time that he lived in. And America's the first original form of entertainment that came out of the United States of America, was the Minstrel Show. And Minstrel Show was vastly popular. This was before we had television shows. And so people would go to the theater and they would watch mostly white men who would paint their faces with shoe polish and imitate stereotypes of African-Americans.
But Douglass knew that through the power of the photograph he could change hearts and minds. People would suddenly realize if he presented himself in this dignified manner and spread his message far and wide through his photographs that people would start to realize, hmm, what I'm seeing on the stage is maybe not exactly what African-Americans are actually like. And you all got it, he escaped from slavery and ended up in the North. He escaped by train and becomes one of the most revered abolitionists and orators of his day and had friends in very high places that also wanted to end slavery. Another thing that folks don't really know about him is that he taught himself to play the violin and that's a very important thing when we're looking at this photograph right here. He taught himself to play a violin because he thought it was a beautiful instrument and made gorgeous music. He subsequently taught his son how to play violin and then and then subsequently his grandson who was featured here. So Joseph Douglass is standing next to him and in a little bit, we'll get a little bit closer. Thank you, Barry. You're reading my mind. And in a little bit, we'll get to that and you can zoom in and there's a little bit of hints about who Joseph was through what he is wearing. And has anyone on this group, I know we're from all over the place. Has anyone in here heard of Joseph Douglass before? I'll just give you a second to see if someone has heard of him. Looks like no one has heard of him. So in his time he was the most famous American. And just notice if it's African-American, I will put that in front. He was the most famous American violinist and composer of his day. He was a prodigy and ended up representing the United States of America as a violinist all around the world internationally. He ended up marrying his wife, and I'm forgetting her name right now. I feel bad.
Sedey - Is it Elizabeth?
Demetri - Is it Elizabeth? Okay, thank you.
Sedey - Well, maybe not, I'm sorry.
Demetri - And she was a famous pianist and they would play together. He ended up living on U street in Washington, DC which was the kind of the Harlem of Washington DC where all of his neighbors were famous musicians as well. And he ended up making his debut on the world stage at the age of 22 years old at the Chicago World's Fair, the Columbia World's Expo in Chicago, which was a really important thing. And we'll talk about expos. They come up a lot when you're talking about early photography and expo you know, in San Francisco here we have the Palace of Fine Arts, which is a leftover from an expo in Paris. They have the Eiffel Tower. So expos were places where the greatest technological innovations, the greatest innovations in arts and science were displayed and also inventions, so light bulbs get shown at the world fairs and all these automatons that come out. And so at the Columbia World's Fair in Chicago, they allowed Douglass to curate a single day for two hours to highlight African-American history. And that's going to be an important fact when we get to subsequent photographs.
Lena - Demetri did you say where he learned to play the violin? Was that--
Demetri - Douglass?
Lena - His son.
Demetri - Oh, he learned... So Joseph learned from his grandfather, but then he also, he studied at the Boston, I forget the title of it. Is it the Boston... Yeah, I don't think it was called that in the late 1800s, but yes yes, you got it.
Sedey - And the next quarter where we're going to share is another family photo. Again, what we'll do is just look at the photo see what we will observe and go on from there. And Demetri, by the way, you are right, it was Boston Conservatory.
Demetri - Ah, okay. I've got these big facts Oh, today someone's asking if we can turn on subtitles. Is that something you can do on the PowerPoint? I think it probably we'll only do your subtitles, right?
Sedey - I think it will only do mine as it's connected to my computer. My apologies for not having that.
Demetri - So speaking of the, you know... I would love to hear everyone's ideas we have a very large audience with us today. But speaking of the World's Fair, this photograph is from the 1900 Paris World's Fair. And it's from a project organized by W.E.B. Du Bois where Paris... There was a lot of backlash about the Columbia World's Fair, that happened in 1883. And so Paris wanted to make sure that they did not make the same mistake when organizing theirs. So they dedicated an entire wing of the fair for the duration of the fair which lasted a couple months to African-American life. And they invited Du Bois who was the most famous scholar of African-American history and culture to curate an exhibition dedicated to the the changes and advancements African-Americans had made since emancipation. And so that so Du Bois sent out a team of photographers mostly in the state of Georgia but also we'll see a little bit later, also in the state of Tennessee to capture photographic evidence of progress African-Americans had made. So obviously Du Bois, and if you know about Du Bois, he was all about social uplift. He was about respectability. And so he showed the highest class of people. And so, you know, I definitely want to bring your attention to the clothing that this family is wearing. Also their dignified body posture and you know.... Oh no, you're good, you're good. And then also, you know, they're very upright. And then also another way of showing your dignity during this time in photographic history, you don't smile, A. But then also looking stoically off into the distance because that was just what they did at the time. Yes, "Regal and beautiful." one of the attendees said. And one of the things that a lot of our visitors notice is the unusual manner in which they're sitting or laying down in a field which is not something you see for anyone during the time. So to be outside and in your very best clothing... And Remi, I will invite you to actually talk about the clothing cause you're a fashionista.
Remi - Well, one of the things I like to point out about the clothing is we're going back to that time. And just to remind ourselves that, at that time we did not have off the rails, off the rack clothing. There's not, Macy's, people are not going to buy ready to wear clothing. So your clothing was made for you. So either you made it yourself or family members or you went to tailors or seamstresses. And also didn't have manmade fibers like rayon and polyester. So everything would have been wools and tweeds and silks, laces. And so some of these items and some of these fabrics would have been imported maybe from France particularly laces and stuff like that. So we're talking about people who were economically able to access that for themselves and also had time to go to a tailor and have a fitting. And so if anybody, you know, and I'm sure there's many of you who make clothes or know people who make clothes, you don't just have one fitting. You go, you be measured, you know, it's a process. It's really this wonderful process where you go in and you choose the fabric, and you touch the fabric and you match this with that, and you decide what your blouse color's going to be or what lace is going to go on it. So you're actually a co-designer in your own self adornment and expression. So those are some--
Lena - This is Lena, do we have any idea what percentage of black Americans at that time had the financial wherewithal, you know, to have their clothes made? I mean, was this relatively indicative of the financial capability of that period or were they kind of a select group?
Remi - I don't actually know percentages or numbers but I think, the way I would answer that and it might be a little controversial but I think that the... This is what I would say is I perceive the wealth of African-Americans is way greater than most people perceive then and now. Quite often we get presented that we're broken, that we're poor and we don't have no money and all of this business and we all know that that's not true. So I'm just going to answer that question with this answer.
Lena - That's great, thank you.
Demetri - And today, do we have access to the charts?
Sedey - We should. And did you want to look at a couple of photos before that or you want to look at the chart quickly?
Demetri - I think because they connect to that question. So, you know, this comes out every few years, someone suddenly discovers these. So in addition to those, the photographs, and there was I think 300 photographs commissioned that were shown in this exhibition. Douglass also had his students create these amazing charts. Now, granted that these were made in 1899 to 1900 in a three month period. So there was no Excel. So if you look carefully, especially in the red, you can see the marker lines. These are all hand drawn and handmade and it's hard to read, it's a little fuzzy right now as the computer adjusts itself, but he was looking at the progress African-Americans had made; what fields of employment folks had gone into. He was looking at percentages of household, percentages of education. And now, you know, if we talk about Du Bois, he's going to obviously highlight you know, the elite. He's not really putting... At this time again, to add onto Remi's statement, the lens was put exclusively on the poor and downtrodden. And so Du Bois, his mission was really to look at, okay, that's a one-sided view of African-American life and experience. Let's look at the other side that never gets, you know, in the newspapers are shown on, I guess at that time it would've been the radio. Spoken about on the radio, not necessarily on the television yet. But yeah, he wanted to show a different side. So this is like showing the Cosby's if folks remember that show, you know, the lawyers and the doctors and those who are homeowners and have advanced degrees, that that was really his emphasis.
Sedey - Can you read the charts titled to us? Sure, yeah, it says the first one says occupation of Negroes and Whites in Georgia. So we can also, I guess we can type that in. And the second one says a series of statistical charts illustrating the condition of the descendants of former African slaves now resident in the United States of America. And the other two are city and rural population, 1890. And the one on the right is age distribution of Georgia Negroes compared with France. So, you know, going back, he also... You know Demetri I learned and Remi, I learned that he also took some of the photos. I didn't know that he photographed as well. And so some of the photos were actually taken by W. E. B. Du Bois this photo even though it says unknown maker could very well be taken by him. And so that's one interesting fact there. You know, first Remi, I love how you lead us through this one because I think it's nice to look at it as a photograph first, then look at it as a kind of a supporting document to Du Bois's exposition.
Remi - Yeah this is one of the photographs that I love, because, you know, if we look at it as aesthetic, as an art piece, we're looking at all of this wood, this beautiful lines, these horizontal lines that we see with these slats going across this house. And then we've got the shutters, which is a smaller pieces of wood. So we've got this juxtaposition between these lines of the shutters, we've got the shapes, we're looking at squares. We're now starting to see more of the story of this house and the size of the house. The proportion of this house takes up in the photograph and we start to see the story of the house and the story of this photograph with the windows open. And so that makes us know that it is somewhere where you can have the windows open at this time of year, that we see the blinds as well which gives another texture and another layer as they're pulled down in the upstairs. As we look at the house, it looks like it could be three stories or two stories with a basement. And then we look at the far right corner, we see the steps going into this other slatted part of the house, but then, you know, what occurred to me as I started to look at this is this is all these different iterations of wood. And you know, we look at this really skinny tree, which is in its original state with obviously with no leaves. But then what comes from the tree, what comes from trees is woods that this house is built on with this beautiful family, where I feel like they're selling. We don't have exact information who this family is, this is our house. This is what we have built, you know? And so obviously the size of this house means that they did not build it with their own hands, which means, again, they will have financial means enough to commission an architect and builders and have it built and be somewhere while this was being built for them.
And, you know, I feel like at the end of the project, they all sat on the porch saying, we did it. This is our first home ownership. You know, this is great, great poster for the bank, I think as well, with this family, with grandmama in the background and mama and papa and their two children with this beautiful raw iron fence going around the house. We see another texture and layer of these cobbled streets which tells us that it's, you know, it's early urban life, as opposed to being out in the lands. And then right in the middle, we see, you know, that completely cuts this picture in half. I call it a telephone pole because it's British but that's because that's what we call them. But you know, it could have been early technology for telephones, early technology for electricity. And I think there's a little sticker that says no bill posting. And so this whole idea of posting stuff was still in our lexicon then because where do we now post, we post onto Facebook. And so as some people are being told not to post onto Facebook. So I just wrap that all up to say that, you know, for me, this tells a story of an art piece, but the story behind the story of this family owning perhaps what was their first home.
Lena - Remi I--
Demetri - And some... Oh, I'm sorry, I think you were probably going to ask what I was going to...
Lena - well, go ahead, go ahead, yeah.
Demetri - I see someone who's asking which city this is in, and we don't know precisely. He did not unfortunately label because he wanted to look at the state of Georgia and also, and a couple of places in Tennessee as kind of, what's the word for it? I can't even come up with a word with it, but-
Lena - Of an upper class, maybe family of that period. What I just want to also point out is that there are cobblestone streets there and that was one thing that stood out to me when I visited Charleston, South Carolina is how, you know, the historic areas still had cobblestone streets. One thing I want to comment on and I hope this isn't controversial, the family looked mulatto to me or Caucasian. I don't know if anyone else had that same perception. And I wondered if, you know, at that time, if you were mulatto, you were considered African-American you know, African-American or was that its own, you know how did they distinguish that population?
Demetri - That's a great question. My family's from Louisiana, I guess I technically am a mulatto. We would have been called that I'm Creole. And so you know, just because that's an area of interest for me, for sure. It very much depended on where you were at so I'm pretty sure, I'm 99% sure that in Georgia you were still black regardless. You know, it's not really in... It's more in a place like Louisiana where there's more of a distinguishing factor, but of course as we all know that your proximity to whiteness, even today, let's be honest, affords you privileges that the further you are away from whiteness you don't have. So, you know, certainly at the turn of the last century and that was a major thing. You know, HBCUs still had started to instill these Brown paper bag tests for admission. So if you look at the pictures of HBCU, historically black colleges and universities around 1910, 1920, you start to notice significant lightening of the student body population. So yeah, colorism has always been a huge thing that we're still dealing with in the United States and then in places like Nigeria and India so...
Sedey - Oh, okay. You know great questions, great conversation. And I think that... I'm glad that we're talking about house also because that is also ownership of land and ownership of houses is something that has been in conversation. We've been in conversation, but certainly with the bank as well in conversation about home ownership and what does it mean to have wealth in the United States, as a black person and to have that generational wealth built. And when we look at this, we see... I see affluence and I see great things and an amazing house but I have a little bit of fear, right? I have a little bit of fear of what came next. Did it get passed on to the next generation? Did it get devalued because of what's been politically, what had been politically placed in terms of housing and finances and segregation and all those kinds of things. I have this fear of what will happen what is going to happen to this land, to this house? So this next one is definitely Demetri's favorite. Oh, I see that post no bills is also a little bit of nimbyism or nimby, guys comment, one of the attendees. Demetri, tell us about this photo.
Demetri - This is my favorite, favorite photo, or one of them. It's absolutely one of my favorites. So I am secretly a botanist or want to be a botanist so to see this family was so much greenery in their yard. And, you know, even on their porch, potted plants, plants in the ground gives me so much joy. And, you know, I just want to know what folks are thinking about this photograph, If you want to go ahead and chat or add things into the Q and A about what you think about this family, what are they trying to say about themselves? Playful, Barry says it's playful. The family had an agricultural background.
Sedey - The women posed behind the...
Demetri - The leaves is amazing. That's one of my favorite parts of this photograph also.
Sedey - Possibly farmers.
Demetri - Okay, so someone's asking about the huge leaves the huge leaves or Colocasia or Taro, they're native to Southeast Asia. "Full of life." Amy says. Yeah, so this part--
Sedey – Demetri can identify most plants in this photo if you like.
Demetri - This photograph just is so much life. And yeah you might think that they had an agricultural connection. This is in Knoxville, Tennessee, and this is C.C. Dodson and his family posed in front of their amazing Queen Anne style Victorian house in the middle of Knoxville. And so, you know, this is an urban environment or suburban environment not necessarily in the downtown area but slightly outside of that. Here in San Francisco we have lots of this style of houses, the painted ladies. And so you can start to fill in with your imagination what colors this house was. This was not like the previous house where it was a very light color, mostly gray. I saw a color rendition that someone made off of houses that this may have been a pink house with sea foam green and sky blue also with a little bit of gold accents in it. So very, very colorful house. C.C Dodson, who is centered right in the middle of the stairs with the jug in his hand and a stick in the other was a very very famous jeweler and watchmaker and Knoxville, Tennessee. And Sedey I still have to send you that photograph of him. His shop was amazing. I am also a lover of watches. And if anybody else is in here, you know that the mechanical watches are super complicated. And so he specialized in complicated movements ones. I'm not sure if he got training in Switzerland, I don't believe that, or a Swiss watchmaker came and trained him, but he was working on complicated movements with all of the balances and springs and gears in them. And so, yeah, this is his family posed in front of their house.
Now during the Victorian era because of, you know, Queen Victoria popularized the home garden and also having the conservatory at house, the glass house and collecting exotic plants from all over the world. So just looking at the fact that the one plant that stands out for me and others is the large heart shaped leaves, that comes from Southeast Asia. Now you can go to a garden center but at this time you couldn't go do that. That means you had to be worldly and have connections to be able to get this exotic species that would be super rare and super expensive brought your house to be able to grow in Tennessee.
Sedey - I'm guessing this was also W. E. B. Du Bois's collection. This made it to the exposition, which is really interesting. And there is a question in the chat; Do any of these homes still exist? You know, Demetri, I think this might exist actually, but I really don't know if the one in Georgia still exists and we don't know the exact address so we... You know just as much as we know about these houses at times, or these photos at times.
Remi - I also wanted to add to this in terms of the fact that the size of these plants and how long that, that would have taken for them to grow, which then suggests a certain amount of time that they have been in this house. And so that not only did they, you know, and anybody who has a garden knows that the upkeep and the time that you have to spend tending and loving and nurturing and having a real relationship with mother earth to have a garden like this as well. So I think there was some comments saying, you know, there are roots of farmers and stuff like that. Even though they didn't have direct roots with farming, and I think as Africans in the diaspora we are always connected to mother earth wherever we are.
Demetri - And yeah, there's a question about, you know, who was his customer base? And honestly, I looked and there's not much information about him. You know, he wasn't a history maker, per se. He was just someone that did run in the circles with W. E. B. Du Bois. And so we know that he had a prominent shot but in terms of who his customer base was, I mean it would be fascinating if he had, you know a multicultural clientele, but, I don't know. I would love for someone to look into that.
Sedey - Yeah, we definitely invite you to be curious with us while we focus on the people that are in the photos. Of course, you know, we look at the house also. So there's a lot from the plants to the people, to their shops, there's so much to find out, there's so much to find out. So thank you for being curious with us. And so I... The next photo before we lead you to an activity is this one. this is Eva and Alida Stewart. And I would like us to look at this photo and say what we want to say about this photo and let us know your observation about this photo, what you like, what you, you know if you don't like something, just say it too, we're not sharing your chats, okay? Let us know. Yeah, fancy, love the hats. Definitely if you're into fashion, this is the photo for you.
Lena - Who would have taken these photographs, you know, and what kind of, I mean, actual instrument would have been used? Would these have been, I mean obviously the ones, you know, would they have been done by a professional, or were there people who, you know, what's the camera financially or costs, accessible to most people?
Sedey - So at this point the camera probably isn't that accessible to people. If we just look at the progression of the invention itself, this is, I think 1910 to 1914 is when this photo is... We don't know exactly when it was taken. So at the time the studios would probably have... They would have to go to a studio to get your photo taken or hire someone to, you know, like the wealthy family that we saw earlier to come to your house and take a photo. What I would suggest is that I don't know... Demetri, you know the technical name for this I'm sure or Remi; is the box camera with a blanket behind it, that's what you would use with a longer exposure time. But by this time, I think by this time the exposure time has significantly lessened. So you might even see folks showing a little bit of a smile or the movements if they moved might be minimized. So I have a feeling that this is a little bit more modern than the camera that I just mentioned. But one thing that I would say is at this time, there were black folks and white folks that were taking photos. So the photographers were not necessarily... It wasn't reserved just tor white photographers, the profession. So it was available for black photographers as well. So we had many black photographers that were taking photos. And these photographs are from public domain. One of the things that we see a lot is that the maker or the person who took the photos is unknown. And if it is known, we don't know the subjects, there's no name. And so a lot of the times, it's hard to find out who took the photos or who has been taken, who's the person or the subject that is in the photo. And so we're lucky to find these photos but particularly the two women that we see here, they're famous in their own rights I'm pretty sure.
There isn't much information about them, but what really is intriguing about them as they're the grand nieces of Harriet Tubman. And so, yeah, they're the grand nieces of Harriet Tubman. Of course, you know, we looked at Joseph Douglass and Frederick Douglass earlier. So it's kind of nice to see the extension and the family extension of our American, big, big American figures, right? Just like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. So with Harriet Tubman there's a lot of stories out there right, about, you know, there was a young woman that she called her niece. We don't necessarily know. You know, there's a speculation that she could have been her biological daughter. And she adopted later on but she did not have a biological child and she's one of nine children. So it's nice to see her family, the other dimension of Harriet Tubman in this kind of way. And that's why we bring this to you, yeah. The fashion, the fashion is quite good yeah. Go ahead.
Demetri - You know, because I know you want to do an activity with everyone also, but just, you know, there was a biopic about Harriet Tubman and so I'm sure a lot of folks know a little bit more about her. So in addition to her role in the underground railroad and you know, bringing so many people into freedom, she then later becomes a spy for the US government during the Civil War. And she received the medal of honor for that. And then she also received a $25 a month pension posthumously so her family had money, you know, after her death. And so even though we don't know much about them, I would like to think that they probably benefited from that $25 was what a lot of people made, you know, or struggled to make in a month, the turn of the last century. And so they had this chance to be socialites. And, you know, for me, even though I don't know for fact, it's just like the way that they're composing themselves, these two sisters going out on the town in their fine garments. It's like, yeah, we're somebody and we come from something.
Sedey - And also, they are the result of her efforts if you think about it, because she returned to Philadelphia to help our families scape one by one. And so if you think about like their sense of freedom and their sense of pride that I can see in this photo could probably come from something like that. And I can see that they're part of her history. Remi?
Remi - What I was going to add now is I was going to ask somebody to unmute themselves and read the statement on the screen.
Sedey - Maybe Lena.
Demetri - Lena, can we ask you to do that please?
Lena - Yes, happy to. Formerly the luxury of a likeness was the exclusive privilege of the rich and great; but now, like education and a thousand other blessings brought to us by the advancing march of light and civilization, such pictures are brought within the easy reach of the humblest members of society, Frederick Douglass, Age of Pictures. So there it is, more and more people were able to acquire these cameras.
Remi - Yeah, absolutely. And now, in homage to the fact that we now, from that time to this, we all have cameras in our pockets everyday and because we are the rich and the great, and we are also the humblest of the many. So as homage to that I want you to all grab your cell phones and your cameras, and take a selfie of yourself to mark this time. And just think about this time as again, we're in a time of great change as they were then, we are in new technology. I mean, we've gone from the big box brownie camera to being able to carry a camera in the pocket of our jeans. You know? And so imagine in a hundred years time, 50 years time, 150 years time, when somebody grabs this technology after we've left this planet, grabs this technology and goes through your phone and uploads it, what would it say about your family, your life and where you are right now? We are in the middle of a, what I call the pandemonium, a health crisis. We are in the middle of a new administration. We're in the middle of a new year. We are in the middle of huge change technologically, as well as emotionally. So just to take a moment and it doesn't have to be one selfie, but to start to record yourself and then maybe start to record and collect pictures of your family and label them and name them and date them so that when somebody comes behind you, we don't repeat this exercise in a hundred years time, where they go, all these beautiful people, but we don't know who they are. Maybe they own the bank or maybe they worked in the bank, or maybe... You know, so I just wanted to share this exercise with you. It's something I've been doing at the museum and then just encouraging people to take pictures and record their own family stories.
Sedey - Wonderful.
Lena - So I'm curious, are there any photos... I don't know, is this the end of the presentation, or are there photos of--
Sedey - We have one more photo for the Bay Area folks, but yeah, let us know. What were you going to share with us?
Lena - I mean, you know, the church was such an important part of the black life, you know, during the early 20th century. And as they begin to move to the North from the South. And I was just wondering if there might be any photos of any people in that setting.
Sedey - You know, that is a great suggestion. I think I would like to search for... There are definitely photos of churches from W.EB. Du Bois's collection but I do not have one in the set that we have right now but that's a really good point. That's a really good point. I mean, we could do a whole show, a whole presentation on the spirituality and the role of the church in the African-American community, for sure. And so thank you for that.
Lena - And also, you know, this partnership with MoAD you know, what kinds of things in exhibits can viewers expect to see if they went to your website if they wanted to learn more about your work?
Remi - Can, I just, I'll let Sedey answer that, but I just want to answer the part of the previous question in terms of the black church. And so I'm going to do a shameless plug for the museum. We are about to have Henry Louis Gates come to the museum and do, it's an online event. He also has written a book about the role of the black church as well. So I just wanted to put that out there, so come to that event, and you'll get more of that information. And I'll add one more thing, the last exhibit that we had, there was one photograph called church mothers, I think.
Sedey - Oh, that's right.
Remi - Demetri, if I remember rightly and that's a beautiful black and white photograph, huge photograph, which I--
Sedey - I'm trying to think of the photographer, Remi, do you remember?
Remi - I have so many exhibits in my head, it's hard to match everything up but I'm sure-
Demetri - It's been a year now.
Remi - Yeah, it's been a year but I'm sure we can find out and pass that information onto you. And so, yes, we are in there and we also always talk about spirituality because it shows up in so many different ways in so many different parts of the art, not just through church, but just spirituality in general.
Sedey - Yeah, it came up today in the conversation with Alison. That was interesting to me. So, you know, that's such a connecting piece, I think. It's a good one. And in terms of... And Remi touched on what you would see if you go to our website. We have at least five public programs a week and we have talks and the artist studios is one of the talks that we have, one of the favorites is in the artist studio and Demetri leads that in Remi and I and Demetri with other docents, with our other colleagues also do a talk on, it's called, "Art As We See It." And it's exactly what we've done with you here with many more folks in some public program we do that every other Thursday and tomorrow we have one at two o'clock and it's on African-American sculpture. And so early sculptures, is we're looking at early structures. If you... Right now we're going through renovation and planning periods. So of course, because of COVID we're closed, so you may not see any work at MoAD at this point but we have many, many programs online. So we invite you to visit our website and to go to the calendar. And, you know, speaking of a museum in the Bay Area, this photo, you might find this very interesting. Actually, Demetri knows all about this photo. And I would like to invite him to tell us more.
Demetri - Yeah, I mean, just in addition to the fact that this family is stunning, they're absolutely gorgeous. I'm waiting for it to kind of get itself into focus for me
Sedey - Is it blurry? I'm sorry.
Demetri - It's blurry on my end. It's probably an internet connection thing but you can, well, you can read in there that this is the family from Oakland, California, and specifically West Oakland. I'm a native of Oakland, California and still live here. So this photo is especially important to me as in addition to the family that is portrayed in here. So this is captain William Shorey, his wife, Jo Ann, and their daughters, Zenobia and Victoria in the photograph. Victoria is the little one and Zenobia is the older one. Now, in addition to this just being an absolutely stunning photograph, Captain Shorey was the most famous African-American whaler and captain of a ship on the entire Pacific West Coast. I always have to give kind of a really quick history of a captain Shorey. So he was a native of Barbados. Jumped on a ship heading to Boston when he was only 17 years old and much to his parents dismay, becomes a whaler. And at this time whaling was a huge industry especially in the United States. We relied on whale bladder for women for your makeup at the time. Now women don't like to put things that come from animal byproducts in their face necessarily, especially lipstick. But that's what it was made out of. A lot of the energy production came from whale oil. The bones were used for other things. So whales were super duper important. So important that the Atlantic ocean in American waters was totally, the whale population was obliterated. So the whaling industry started to move to the other coast, to the West coast and Captain Shorey worked his way up as a whaler and ends up being the captain of a ship. And his ship was not an all black crew. He had a multicultural crew in the early 20th century. So it was pretty revolutionary for its day. His family would join him on these adventures. And they would go as far the seas Japan to hunt for whales. And let me kind of back up, his wife Julia Anne came from a very prominent family in San Francisco. So she also was really important but before we zoom away from the little girl, Victoria has daughter also becomes a whaler and a captain of a ship following in her mother's footsteps. I mean, her father's footsteps. Captain Shorey was known as the black Ahab. And if you go back into any of like the East Bay Express archives, if you go back into any of the library archives, there's lots and lots of stories about him because he was famous for not ever losing any of his ship crew even though they got into battles with whales that didn't want to be hunted, you know, big storms would come, no one ever died at sea. Unfortunately his daughters Zenobia, the oldest daughter died after one of their adventures on the sea due to illness.
So she died when they arrived back in Oakland. And also an unfortunate thing to connect to today is captain Shorey died because of the Spanish flu in 1918. So a little connection to things that are happening today in the other pandemic. But he built this beautiful gorgeous Victorian house on Eighth Street in West Oakland. And kind of the story with that is that the freeway the Nimitz Freeway that was supposed to go through there, the Cypress, if anyone's from Oakland or has Oakland connections; the Cypress Freeway that collapsed in the 1989 earthquake was supposed to cut right through where his house was, the community gathered together to save the house and to redirect where the freeway would go; that no longer stands after the '89 earthquake. The house was damaged in the '89 earthquake but the community that historical society got together they restored it and has a beautiful plaque that also tells the story and folks can go visit that. It's a mile away from my house. Very, very local.
Sedey - Thank you Demetri and thank you, Remi. And this is the end of our talk today. And thank you everyone for participating on the Q and A. I see so many... And Demetri somebody has a suggestion, not a suggestion, what is it? A museum about whaling in the East coast. Yeah, so thank you so much for your ideas, for your suggestions and for looking at these photos with us, and please know that what we mean by family is what you understand family to be. It's not, you know... A lot of the photos that we see are very heteronormative and kind of the father and mother kind of set. But we see so many other kinds of families as well. So when we look at these pictures it's also with that understanding. So I wanted to mention that. Thank you everyone. And I really enjoyed our talk and Lena thank you again for inviting us and for, yeah. For the whole team, I appreciate that very much.
Lena - Oh wow, this was really extraordinary. You know, Sedey, Demetri and Remi, thank you for sharing your wisdom and your information with us today. And of course these extraordinary photo display highlighting the images of black families across the United States as a way to celebrate our Black History Month. And to our attendees, we want to thank you for being with us today and encourage you to continue to find ways to, you know, celebrate the beautiful culture of black Americans. As a reminder, the webinar was recorded and the recording will be available on our website. So please visit firstrepublic.com for a schedule of our upcoming webinars and or also please be sure to follow the Museum of the African Diaspora and keep up with the wonderful exhibits that they have. It's been a pleasure and everyone have a great evening.
Sedey - Thank you, you too.
Demetri - And to you as well.