Fredi Washington photograph collection

Collection Data

The Fredi Washington Photograph Collection depicts some aspects of her personal life and her career as a dancer, actress and activist, from the late 1910s to the 1950s.The collection consists of individual and group studio portraits and candid shots of Washington, some members of her family, and some of her friends; publicity stills from some of her stage and movie performances; and studio portraits, many inscribed, of her friends and colleagues from dance, music, stage, and film. The collection does not contain any images of her early personal life, any professional activities after the 1940s, or personal photographs after the early 1950s. Personal photographs include a studio portrait of Washington taken just prior to her starting in show business (1919); a drawing of Washington in dance costume (1927); Washington and a group of friends on the beach at Coney Island, New York (ca. 1930s); snapshots of Lawrence Brown, Washington's first husband, posing with his car (ca. 1930s); Brown in a group portrait of Les Hite's band, which includes Lionel Hampton on drums (1930-1932); a portrait of Washington and her sister, Isabel Washington Powell (ca. 1940s); portraits of Isabel and her husband, Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1941); Washington and her second husband, Anthony Hugh Bell, celebrating their wedding (1952); and a series of contact sheets, depicting Fredi and Hugh Bell at home, in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, for a magazine profile (ca. 1953). Images of Washington's professional career as dancer, actress and activist include a view of Washington in the chorus line at Club Alabam', New York (1924-1925); studio portraits of Washington and her dance partner, Al Moiret, with whom she toured Europe (1927-1928); Washington and actor Alston Burleigh in scenes from the play "Run, Little Chillun" (1933); movie stills from the film "Imitation of Life," featuring Washington, Louise Beavers, and two unidentified child actors (1934); at a Negro Actors Guild boat ride with dancer Wini Johnson and Dora White (1938); with Dorothy Maynor, Canada Lee, Fredric March and Hubert T. Delany, doing a Race Relations Sunday radio broadcast on WOR, New York (1943); and rehearsing with the cast of the play "Lysistrata" (1946). A large number of the studio portraits of Washington appear to be related to her dance or acting career; some may have been used for publicity purposes. A portion of the collection consists of individual and group studio portraits, many of which are inscribed to either Washington, Lawrence Brown, or both, depicting friends and colleagues in various fields of entertainment. Among these include Fletcher Henderson, Edna Thomas, the Nicholas Brothers, Willie Bryant, Claire Trevor, Elisabeth Welch, the dance team of Norton and Margot, Maude Russell and Mantan Moreland, Billy Rowe, and Earl Hines, among others. Also included are a number of images of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, of which Brown, a trombonist, was a member from 1932-1951.
Bloom (Chicago, Ill.) (Photographer)
Miles, Bertrand, 1928-2005 (Photographer)
Seymour, Maurice (Photographer)
Elcha, Eduard (Photographer)
Allen, James A. (Photographer)
Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964 (Photographer)
Georges, S. (Photographer)
Dates / Origin
Date Issued: 1919 - 1953
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division
Shelf locator: Sc Photo Fredi Washington Collection
Washington, Fredi, 1903-1994
Washington, Fredi, 1903-1994 -- Performances -- 1920-1949
Brown, Lawrence, 1907-1988
Bell, Anthony H
Powell, Isabel Washington, 1908-
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974
Moiret, Al
Thomas, Edna
Bryant, Willie
Welch, Elisabeth
Trevor, Claire, 1910-2000
Maynor, Dorothy
Lee, Canada
March, Fredric, 1897-1975
Delany, Hubert T.
Jr, Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972
Henderson, Fletcher, 1897-1952
Moreland, Mantan
Beavers, Louise, 1902-1962
Hines, Earl, 1903-1983
Hampton, Lionel
Whipper, Leigh R.(Leigh Rollin), 1877-1975
Norton and Margot (Dance team)
Madeline Trio
Nicholas Brothers
Negro Actors Guild of America
African American actresses
African American dancers
African Americans in the performing arts
African American entertainers
African American musicians
African American actors
African American motion picture actors and actresses
Theatrical productions -- 1920-1949
African American women political activists
African American political activists
Portrait photographs
Group portraits
Film stills
Content: Title devised by cataloger.
Content: Many photographs have photographer's or photographic studio's handstamp on verso; some items have photographer's or photographic studio's name either blind stamped, printed, or inscribed on recto; a small group of items bear photographer's proof handstamp on recto.
Content: Many photographs have handwritten notations on verso; many items bear inscriptions on recto; some items bear handwritten captions on recto; some items are duplicates.
Content: Collection contains work by Carl Van Vechten, James L. Allen, Maurice Seymour, Bloom, Bertrand Miles and Eddie Elcha, among others.
Biographical/historical: Fredericka Carolyn Washington, dancer, actress and civil rights activist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1903. After moving to New York, she began her acting and dance career, at age 16, as a cabaret performer and would establish her reputation as an actress and dancer in numerous plays and films, most notably the film "Imitation of Life" (1934). In the movie, her convincing performance as a young black woman passing for white led many African-Americans to accuse her of trying to pass in real life, while the film industry began to typecast her for tragic mulatto roles. Resenting the stereotyping that may have shortened her acting career, Washington became politically active in the late 1930s, which included helping to found the Negro Actors Guild (1937) to eliminate stereotyping and open acting opportunities for African-American actors. From the mid-1940s to the early 1950s she returned to the stage and worked in radio and television. Washington was married twice: in 1933 to trombonist Lawrence Brown, and in 1952 to dentist Anthony H. Bell. Washington, who was also the sister of actress Isabel Washington, the first wife of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., died in Stamford, Conn., in 1994.
Content: Forms part of the Fredi Washington Papers, 1922-1981.
Physical Description
Extent: 255 items (.6 lin. ft., 2 boxes)
Extent: 96 photographic prints :silver gelatin, black &white , some hand-col. ;26 x 21 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 21 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w ;21 x 26 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 14 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w ;18 x 13 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 23 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w ;13 x 18 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 40 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w, some hand-col. ;39 x 28 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 22 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w ;13 x 9 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 17 photographic prints :silver gelatin, b&w ;9 x 7 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 2 photomechanical prints :halftone, b&w ;26 x 18 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 6 photographic postcards :b&w ;9 x 14 cm.
Extent: 4 photographic postcards :b&w ;15 x 11 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 1 drawing;23 x 14 cm.
Extent: 1 negative :b&w ;7 x 12 cm.
Organized into two series: I. Personal photographs, 1919-1953; II. Professional activities, 1920s-1940s.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b14362449
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 02c420a0-218f-013b-b98a-0242ac110003
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