visual arts | July 31, 2019

Understanding American Culture: Sarah Lewis Speaks to the New York Times on the Ebony Photo Archives

The Ebony and Jet archive—a collection of over four million prints documenting African-American life—will finally be open to the public after decades of mystery. Harvard historian Sarah Lewis spoke to the New York Times about the significance. 

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of the accessibility of Ebony and Jet archive for not only historians and researchers, for the general public,” said Sarah Lewis, speaking to The New York Times on the recent sale of the archive at auction. “Understanding American culture means understanding African-American culture. This collection, as an archive, offers an invaluable oculus onto black life.”
Founded in 1945, Ebony and Jet was a publication chronicling the lives of black Americans, from politicians and civil rights activists, to musicians, athletes, and everyday people. The collection was recently auctioned in Chicago, where the winning bid came from four major foundations. The Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation put up a combined $30 million dollars to purchase the archive, which will be donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute.


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