We all know Dorothea Lange‘s Migrant Mother, a photograph known for its quintessential nudge to contemporary hearts to remind us of that bottoming out in our nation’s history. How many Black mothers were there at that time, and how many of their stories have not traveled unto now?
Certainly, the evocative image of children curled unto a mother’s hardworking breasts deserve no critique. Yet, the tenements of Harlem and the flats of Bronzeville and the underground hovels of the South have no internationally-recognized images to mark the force of this event on their lives. Is it taken for granted that we have always been and may always be in a Depression? Or, were we just not counted as there? Are we counted now?
I found some interesting shots of Black women done by Eudora Welty, online at Corbis.com. Why were they nice surprises to me? I would like to see more discussion of American creative abolitionism: efforts by white people or those in other groups to assist Black women in telling our structurally suppressed stories.
In these times, I found some pictures of us looking certifiably glamourous, raw, and fly. The puzzle of visual placement of African-American female images, from the countrified to the well-to-do to the sexual, have seemingly remained unsolved. Must we be downtrodden, barge-toting and potato-sack wearing unfortunates in order to be appreciated, or must we be creamy displays of uber-sexual excess, to melt into most cerebral pots? The consideration of our Migrant Mothers alongside our more societally-accepted beauties has a gradient of approval, examination and interpretation that either cuts most of us out or can’t fit all of us in. We have such a beautiful wide range. I hope to show it here.
Looking at us in the spectrum and predicaments of glory we are capable of, I at least proclaim Black women may have been the greatest things to come from the camera’s invention–whether to document the historical genocides and modern chaos of our nations (still), or to exhibit the flowering of ingenues from what was then and still sought for extermination. And we are still here…