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.
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.
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.