Rediscovering an American Community of Color:
The Photographs of William Bullard
October 14, 2017 - February 25, 2018
Itinerant photographer William Bullard left behind a trove of over 5,400 glass negatives at the time of his death in 1918. Among these negatives are over 230 portraits of African Americans and Native Americans mostly from the Beaver Brook community in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rediscovering an American Community of Color features eighty of these unprinted and heretofore unpublished photographs that otherwise may have been lost to history. Bullard identified over 80% of his sitters in his logbook, making this collection especially rare among extant photographic collections of people of color taken before World War I and enables this exhibition to tell specific stories about individuals and recreate a more accurate historical context. Moreover, Bullard’s portraits examine the role of photography as the vehicle for a “new Black identity” during the nascent years of the New Negro movement. Offering a photographic narrative of migration and resettlement in the aftermath of Emancipation and Reconstruction, Bullard’s portraits address larger themes involving race in American history, many of which remain relevant today, notably, the story of people of color claiming their rightful place in society as well as the fundamentally American story of migration, immigration, and the creation of a community in new surroundings
Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917 has been organized at the Worcester Art Museum by Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Nancy Kathryn Burns and Janette Thomas Greenwood, Professor of History at Clark University, working together with Frank Morrill, collector, researcher, and steward of William Bullard's remarkable negatives. A partnership with Clark University has made an accompanying illustrated catalogue, website, and interactive map possible.
This exhibition is generously supported in part by grants from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the McMillan-Stewart Foundation. Additional funds provided by the Worcester Educational Development Foundation will facilitate high school visits to the exhibition from students throughout the city of Worcester.
Above: William Bullard, James & Jennie Johnson Family, 1894-1918; printed 2016, E.132.16.10