"His photographs depict African American life in the middle of the United States, a society rarely depicted in any medium."
In celebration of African American History Month, Doane College's Rall Gallery will partner with Arts Are Basic to display a collection of early 20th century photographs thought to be taken by former Lincoln resident John Johnson. The photos form a collective portrait of Lincoln's African American community from 1912-1925.
The exhibit begins Thursday, February 16 and ends February 29 in Rall Gallery in the lower level of the Communications Building on the Crete campus.
According to information provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society, the exhibit:
"...charts an important story of an African American community in early 20th century Lincoln, and its photographer. In 1999, the McWilliams family - whose roots in Lincoln date to the 1880s - showed their collection of glass plate negatives to the Nebraska State Historical Society. Since that time additional photographs were located.
Although the glass plates do not bear signatures or stamps, the evidence points to Johnson as the photographer. Born in 1879, he was the son of Margaret and Harrison Johnson, a former slave and Civil War veteran. Johnson died in 1953.
Johnson portrayed his subjects with respect and pride during a time of intense racial discrimination. His technical mastery of the photographic medium, understanding of pictorial composition, and rapport with the sitters gives the photos warmth and intimacy rarely achieved even by many well-known photographers of his day."
Dr. Richard Terrell, longtime Doane art professor and director of Rall Gallery, says of the collection: "(These photographs) show us a society rough, gentle, fashionable, imaginative and beautiful...I found myself wondering about some of the people. Who were they? What were they thinking? What did their voices sound like when they talked, laughed, sang, cried? What were their talents, their joys in life? What were their sorrows?"
The John Johnson collection is being presented as part of Arts Are Basics aesthetic education program 2011-2012 focusing on African American history. Arts Are Basic is a program in Doane's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that provides unique workshop training and classroom support for teachers through exploration of carefully selected works of art and live performances. In order to serve teachers and students fully, Arts Are Basic serves as a catalyst not only to create a greater aesthetic awareness of the world but also to foster greater understanding of the world's peoples through culturally specific arts.
The exhibit is also sponsored by Multicultural Student Support Services and Doane's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. For more information, contact Wilma Jackson at 402.826.8620. For more information about Arts Are Basic, contact Rhea Gill at 402.466.4774.
Rall Gallery is in Perkins Library, in the lower level of the Communications Center. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-11p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2-11 p.m.