The editorial team at Picturing Black History recognizes the importance of Black history as a subject of academic knowledge and a source of African diaspora identities. We embrace the power of images to capture stories of oppression and resistance, perseverance and resilience, freedom dreams, imagination, and joy within the United States and around the globe.
Picturing Black History emerged in the wake of national and international Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers in 2020. We recognize that Black Lives Matter is a contemporary outgrowth of a long history of Black racial protest in the United States. Picturing Black History is our collaborative effort to contribute to an ongoing public dialogue on the significance of Black history and Black life in the United States and throughout the globe.
What is Black History?
Black History is a body of historical knowledge that enriches the liberation struggles of Black folks.
Since at least the 19th century in the Americas, historical thinkers used the term “Negro History” (today known as “Black History”) to interpret the relevance of the African past to the specific conditions of contemporary Black life. Successive generations of Black folk engaged in this grassroots intellectual and cultural work often without the resources provided by academic training or university affiliations.
It is our intent to extend the work of these pioneering generations. In our efforts to amplify Black histories in a digital format, we join an expansive and vibrant landscape sustained by many: public libraries and historical societies, museums and cultural organizations, academic institutions and digital humanities projects.
Why Getty Images?
Getty Images has spent over a decade working to break down stereotypes and create a more authentic visual view of concepts such as gender identity, sexual identity, religion, race, mental illness, and disability for organizations worldwide to use in their communications. Its mission is to move the world, and it believes imagery has a unique power to shape ideas, drive debate, inform, and challenge.
As part of its work, the company continues to digitize and to preserve visual history to uncover and celebrate milestones and historic contributions that can reset dated narratives. To support the learning, reflecting and expansion of these historical narratives, it is making historical photographs it owns related to the histories and cultures of the African Black Diaspora available free of charge for not-profit-making uses, and Picturing Black History is an extension of that work.
Through this collaboration with the Ohio State History Department and Getty Images, Picturing Black History seeks to:
Build a body of work that can contribute to a sustained understanding and appreciation of Black histories.
Better interrogate Getty Images’ existing analogue and digital photographic holdings as they relate to Picturing Black History with the aim to better understand, better curate and better elevate those narratives.
Uncover new materials through the ongoing digitization and preservation of the Getty Images archive.
Find a path to partnering with additional archives and photographers to help make accessible and to amplify a more inclusive historical visual landscape.
Challenge the inherent biases of 200 years of photographic history.
Directly embrace the power of academic learning to help re-contextualize these visual histories.
Historically, Getty Images and the photography industry have not worked from a foundation of diversity, equity, and inclusion. For too long the historically dominant cultural structures that have built the photography industry and archives have been grounded in white supremacy dating back to the 19th Century and beyond.
Getty Images is committed to changing that and Picturing Black History is part of a wider programme of activity which addresses the commitments Getty Images has made toward anti-racism, inclusion, and dismantling discrimination. For more information see here.