Thursday, February 14, 2008

African American Woman

This is a portrait of a young African American woman. The photograph was taken in 1899. So many of the pictures of African Americans from this era are in the context of sharecropping and other more unfortunate circumstances. While we don't have any other details on this photograph, it appears that this woman, and her family have done better than what was typical for African Americans of this time.

6 comments:

  1. She looks like a showgirl to me. Bare arms and a hint of cleavage seem a bit much for 1899. The pretty clothes might belie some unpretty duties...

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  2. That may not be necessarily true. Ladies evening fashions at the time involved cleavage and bare arms, as well as extremely corseted waists. You can check some pictures of period clothing at http://www.marquise.de/en/1800/pics/1800f.shtml
    There are two evening dresses listed, and if you pull them up and look closely you can see they are not unlike what this beautiful lady is wearing. I don't find the idea that she was a lady of means to be entirely impossible.

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  3. Certainly it's not impossible. It's the feathers especially that make me think of burlesque.

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  4. I agree. Women of social standing didnt wear such ostentatious accessories as feathers. Plus, the cleavage is suggestive. Add to her being Black... Hate to say it but reality is, werent too many doors open in 1899 for Black women.

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  5. I have to school everyone and say that feathers were ultra-fashionable from the 1870s until the Great War. Not to mention that there have been affluent black Americans since the Revolutionary days. She may have been an actress, but she more likely would be a society woman, since most black entertainers were forced to don blackface for success--she would be more likely to be portrayed in blackface as an entertainer, rather than this "high society" portrait.

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  6. This seems to be the same woman in another photo in the "Black Americana" Album. She is younger in this photo.

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