Chicago: 1950-1963. 198 film negatives each measuring approximately 4” x 5”; most are held within 33 captioned envelopes; a small percentage are loose and there are an additional 7 captioned envelopes which did not include negatives. Generally very good plus or better.
This is a collection of negatives taken by a professional photographer who we presume to be African American. We base that presumption on the fact that over ninety percent of the images depict African Americans. The photos can be generally classified into three groups: (1) medical/Planned Parenthood; (2) West Indies Participants in the 1959 Pan American Games which were held in Chicago; and (3) portraits/parties.
Approximately 40 negatives depict Planned Parenthood [PP] offices with mostly Black employees and nearly all date to 1962 or 1963. According to Rose Holz in her “The Birth Control Clinic in a Marketplace World” (University of Rochester Press: 2012), this was a significant period relative to African American participation in PP in Chicago:
“by the 1960s the black community occupied an important place in Chicago's family planning movement, yielding in turn a major shift in what was once the local office's busiest clinic. No longer was the downtown facility, which had in the 1920s and 1930s served mainly white middle-class women, the affiliate's major draw. Instead, it was now the 63rd Street Center, which operated deep in the heart of the vibrant black belt district . . .
That the Chicago affiliate was reaching so many African Americans was not simply a product of its prime location; it was also a product of the black community itself. Although it is difficult to determine just how many worked at the Chicago office . . . African Americans occupied positions throughout the local organization at all levels.”
Four envelopes identify shots from three or four different PP locations: 841 E. 63rd, 6306 Cottage, 1906 Ogden, and the “63rd Street Office,” which may be the same as 841 E. 63rd. Several shots show employees and/or volunteers meeting with patients, some show a mostly Black staff, and a few show PP workers handing out literature outside Fantus Out-Patient Clinic. A series of 18 are portraits of people sitting at their desks and at least two Black doctors are shown, one of whom is identified in two photos as Dr. Lendor C. Nesbitt. According to his obituary in a 2005 issue of the Chicago Tribune,
“during the pre-civil rights era, Dr. Lendor C. Nesbitt was accepted to the university of Illinois Medical School but was told his enrollment would have to wait. There was already one black student in the class.Dr. Nesbitt wasn't willing to defer his dream of becoming a doctor, so he fought the race-based quota system and became the second black student in the bunch. He went on to graduate in 1942, becoming an obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced on Chicago's South and West Sides for more than 30 years.”
The concentration of PP images also provide a possible clue to the photographer as the Chicago area PP had a regular newsletter in this period, many of which have images showing African American employees. We have only been able to review a couple and have been unable to match any of our images to the two issues we've seen, but a deeper dive into the Chicago PP's archives could bear fruit.
Approximately one third of the photos relate to the African American and/or Afro-Caribbean members of the West Indies Federation who participated in 1959's Pan American Games. All of these shots show social or community events including a “Miss West Indies” beauty pageant. At least three show Miss Guatemala, Miss El Salvador and Miss Puerto Rico visiting patients at the La Rabida Sanitarium. More than one series shows parties, and several images show group shots of athletes. Two other noteworthy aspects of this section: first, the West Indies Federation was a nation that only existed for a little over four years from 1958 to 1962. It was made up of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and those on the Leeward and Windward Islands. Second, one of the athletes shown is a young Basil Ince, who went on to serve as a Senator and Minister of External Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1980s.
Approximately one quarter of the photos are either portraits or depict children's parties. Also of note are three stirring images of an alleyway, two of which show Black children playing among, and with, the detritus that was found there.
A compelling collection of professional images depicting African Americans, and worthy of deeper research. Very good +. Item #7689