‘African American Portraits: Photographs From the 1940s and 1950s’ Review: Depictions Free From Bias


In June 1963,

James Baldwin

took to the podium at Castlemont High School in Oakland, Calif., to address its predominantly black student body. “Every Negro boy and every Negro girl born in this country,” he said at one point, “undergoes the agony of trying to find…some image of himself or herself which is not demeaning.”

Baldwin would surely have been pleased by the images in a new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “African American Portraits: Photographs From the 1940s and 1950s,” organized by Met photography curator

Jeff L. Rosenheim.

Far from demeaning, the 150-plus studio portraits on display demonstrate how African-Americans made use of the popular yet intimate art form to depict themselves free from caricature or…

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