Collection History

This digital compilation was developed in support of the NYPL website, "The African American Migration Experience," a sweeping 500-year historical narrative from the transatlantic slave trade to the Western migration, the colonization movement, the Great Migration, and the contemporary immigration of Caribbeans, Haitians, and sub-Saharan Africans.

Related Resources

NYPL. "In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience."(2005) <http://www.inmotionaame.org>

Collection Data

Collection depicts African Americans engaged in a variety of occupations and date from the 1900s to the 1990s with the bulk of the images being from the 1930s to the 1950s. Images capture blue-collar and white-collar workers performing their jobs. Other collections depicting people at work include Education, Businesses, Military, Farm Security Administration, and the National Youth Administration. Studio and candid portraits of noted individuals from various fields are found in the Portrait Collection. Organized into five series: I. General; II. Business professionals; III. Legal and law enforcement professionals; IV. Medical professionals; V. War industry workers. The General (1800-1990) series comprises the majority of the collection and documents diverse occupations including air pilots, astronauts, clothing workers, construction workers, disc jockeys, engineers, factory workers, filmmakers, food industry workers, jewelers, journalists, maritime workers, office workers, photographers, realtors, scientists and laboratory technicians, service industry workers, union representatives and transportation workers. Very few images are from the nineteenth century. Of note are a series of images of Pennsylvania Railroad Workers produced for an advertising campaign in the African American press (1940s-1950s). The Business professionals series (194?-198?) include images of business professionals and employees in the advertising, airline, alcohalic beverage, insurance, entertainment, manufacturing, and publishing industries. The Legal and law enforcement professionals series (193?-199?) consists of images of judges, lawyers, law clerks, and police officers. Images of law enforcement professionals range from uniformed police officers to commissioners and document on-the-job activities, ceremonies, and community out-reach programs. The Medical professionals series (192?-199?) shows doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, and medical assistants at work. Included are images of World War II cadet nurses and nurses/nannies from the nineteenth century, one depicting Mary E. Mahoney, the first African American registered nurse in the United States. The War industry workers series (1942-1946?) documents the contributions of African Americans to the defense industry during World War II. Depicted are men and women laborers engaged in shipbuilding, airplane construction, arms and ammunition manufacturing and construction projects. Women are also shown sewing and preparing uniforms and parachutes. Among the work sites depicted is the Picatinny Arsenal, Dover, New Jersey (1944) where employees are depicted in both on-the-job as well as leisure activities.
United States. Office of War Information (Photographer)
Andrews, Bert (Photographer)
Layne, Cecil (Photographer)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1800 - 1990 (Approximate)
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division
Shelf locator: Sc Photo Occupations
Industrial mobilization -- United States
African American businesspeople
African American white collar workers
African American physicians
African American professional employees
African American nurses
African American railroad employees
African American judges
African American lawyers
African American photographers
African American police
African American television producers and directors
African American household employees
African American women household employees
African American women in the professions
World War, 1939-1945
Women and war
Women in war
War work
Unskilled labor
Blue collar workers
Civil defense
Construction workers
United States
New York (N.Y.)
Content: Photographers include Bert Andrews, James C. Campbell, Cecil Layne, and the Office of War Information.
Content: Some photographs bear photographer's or photography studio's handstamp on verso. Some photographs have agency's photo credit handstamped or machine printed on verso. Some items have descriptive information on verso orrecto. Some images are cropped or bear cropping marks. Some items are duplicates.
Physical Description
Gelatin silver prints
Extent: 1093 items (2.3 cubic ft., 13 boxes) 21 photographic prints : gelatin silver, b ; 36 x 26 cm. and smaller. 720 photographic prints : gelatin silver, b ; 26 x 21 cm. and smaller. 68 photographic prints : gelatin silver, b ; 18 x 26 cm. and smaller. 83 photographic prints : gelatin silver, b ; 13 x 18 cm. and smaller. 21 photomechanical prints : b ; 36 x 26 cm. and smaller. 3 photographic prints : col. ; 26 x 21 cm.. 2 postcards : col. ; 14 x 9 cm. 4 commemorative prints : col. 10 x 17 cm.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b16181531
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): e9511b70-c6cd-012f-49d7-58d385a7bc34
Show filters Hide filters
65 results found