The “Blacks in the Red Stick” exhibit began Monday in Hill Memorial Library, featuring photographs depicting the everyday life of African-Americans in Baton Rouge between 1890 and 1947.
The exhibit has eight prints, compiled by director of the African and African-American Studies program and associate professor of geography and anthropology Joyce M. Jackson. The photographs were pulled from Hill Memorial Library, the Louisiana State Library and the Louisiana State Archives.
Jackson began collecting prints through the years and developed an interest in the history of African-Americans in Baton Rouge.
“I look at photography as a way of telling a story, so I look at photographers as storytellers,” Jackson said. “Many of the pictures are depicting blacks in the subservient positions.”
The images show African-Americans building railroads, building the streets of Baton Rouge and working farms, along with one scene of Angola prisoners performing manual labor on a farm.
Jackson said she wants people at the University to understand the important presence of African-Americans in the Baton Rouge community.
“LSU is a major part of Baton Rouge that sits on the edge of the black community,” Jackson said. “This exhibit will bring the community to LSU, and LSU to the community.”
According to Jackson, the eight images selected show a balance of life in Baton Rouge and also tell the story of African-Americans and how they helped build Baton Rouge.
“We have a mother and a child in one image,” Jackson said. “We have another man sitting in front of the store, dignified, to another lady with an umbrella, looking very nice as if she is coming or going to church.”
Hill Memorial Library Exhibitions Coordinator Leah Jewett said when going through the photographs, she felt a need to show images that depicted people on their own terms, as many of the pictures showed people performing labor.
In addition to the “Blacks in the Red Stick” exhibit, a complementary exhibit called “Portraits of the Past: An Archival Mystery” is being shown as well.
“We showed these images to give another impression of blacks with money,” Jackson said.
The difference between these photographs and the ones in the first exhibit is that these photos were asked to be taken, according to Jackson. These photographs may be the only representation people had of themselves, so they dressed in their finest attire and posed with dignity, Jackson said.
Both exhibitions will accompany an interdisciplinary symposium March 8 that will explore historical aspects of African-Americans in Baton Rouge, desegregation, political issues, culture and the arts.
Jewett said she hopes people will see the exhibition and will add to the collection so there will be a complete representation of the Baton Rouge community.
“Additions to the collection can include photographs, documents and maps,” Jewett said.
The exhibition will run through April 13.