January 23, 2022

Emory University Acquires African American Photo Collection Containing More than 10,000 Images

From the Emory News Center:

A rare collection of more than 10,000 photographs depicting African American life from the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been acquired by Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) from photo collector Robert Langmuir of Philadelphia.

The images range from the 1840s – the beginning of photography – to the 1970s, with most of the photos falling in the post-Civil War to pre-World War II era. They include nearly every format, from daguerreotypes to snapshots, and cover a wide range of subject matter. A number of the photos were taken by African American photographers, a topic in itself.


Randall K. Burkett, curator of MARBL’s African American Collections says the collection “complements virtually every other collection we have, whether it’s in music, art, literature, dance, business, civil rights – any aspect of late 19th and 20th century American culture. This is going to be a signature collection for us, and I know it will attract other collections.”


The photos are of both ordinary people and well-known names of the times, such as newspaper editor and early civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter, black nationalist Marcus Garvey, sculptor Selma Burke, blues musicians Howlin’ Wolf and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Pearl Harbor hero Dorie Miller, and religious leaders Noble Drew Ali, Father Divine and Bishop Elmira Jeffries, among many others.


Growing up in Philadelphia in an African American neighborhood, Langmuir has been interested in black history for most of his life. A rare-book seller for 35 years, he’s collected photos and family albums through antique book shows or ephemera fairs, auctions and networking.

Of the more than 10,000 photos in the collection, Langmuir says: “Not every photo is a stellar, poignant image. A lot of them are family archives, or from family albums, people doing things, just living their everyday lives. That’s what I was interested in–looking at black culture through black people’s eyes.”

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.