Black Lives in Focus: Part I: Colonial-Antebellum America by Ross Kelbaugh

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History is a puzzle with many pieces. For African American history, many of these pieces had been lost up until now. The Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, formed over almost fifty years of hunting for photographs, prints, documents, and objects, has found many of those missing pieces. The result is a comprehensive, chronological “teaching collection” comprised of about 500 photographs, documents and objects that were discovered that help to tell this story. This is the first of three volumes to share some of those discoveries and their personal history. Most have never been previously published. The years covered in Black Lives in Focus, Part One span from the 1750 portrait of the first identifiable enslaved person in Colonial America to the eve of the Civil War in 1860. Many of these treasures were found in Maryland which had both an enslaved population and the largest free Black population in the nation by the 1860. In the collection are documents such as an extremely rare Maryland “Freedom Paper” that had to be carried by a person of color to prove their freedom. Included are extremely rare portraits in the early photographic formats including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, melainotypes (early tintypes) and cartes de visite of enslaved and free African Americans, many of whom are identified which breathes life into many of these faces from the past. Photography is a theme in the collection as it became important in the lives of African Americans, enslaved or free, soon as after its discovery. For those free, and a few who were enslaved, the photography studio was where they were free to record themselves with dignity in a manner of their choosing as they experienced this “New Birth of Freedom” years before the abolition of slavery and the following years of Jim Crow. Featured in The Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection and on these pages are both identified and unidentified, but forgotten people from the past who have been rescued from the fog of history to now take their rightful place in the American Memory. Let your journey into rediscovering this forgotten history begin here!Included here are 36 of these earliest “missing pieces” reproduced in color with their stories. Items in the collection are available for museum exhibition loan and publication.

Paperback. 79 pages. Published January 7, 2021. ISBN-13 : 979-8582428046

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