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Everyday Beauty


  • National Museum of African American History and Culture 1400 Constitution Avenue Northwest Washington, DC, 20560 United States (map)
Untitled, 1946-48 A railroad passenger car maintenance man From the series The Way of Life of the Northern Negro Wayne F. Miller © Magnum Photos, 2009.24.8

Untitled, 1946-48 A railroad passenger car maintenance man
From the series The Way of Life of the Northern Negro
Wayne F. Miller © Magnum Photos, 2009.24.8

“Everyday Beauty” features 100 images and rarely seen films from the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s growing photography and moving-image collection.

The exhibition uses the lenses of history, culture and community to reflect themes of self-representation, social responsibility and resilience. African Americans have long recognized the power of images and used them to document moments—from the monumental to everyday. Photography and film have also been used to challenge negative perceptions, demonstrate the strength of the human spirit and promote social reform. These selected works highlight the beauty of everyday occasions and feature photography and films by known and lesser-known artists.

“Everyday Beauty” is divided into five themes:

  • Self-presentation highlights how African Americans used photography to challenge negative perceptions of themselves. Photographs are presented in a variety of formats—tintypes, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, postcards, family snapshots and vintage prints—and highlight black people’s long-standing engagement with visual culture.

  • Courtship and Family recognizes families are a critical part of any community and have been an essential source of strength for African Americans who have faced discrimination and persevered during some of the bleakest and brightest moments in American history.

  • Faith and Activism focuses on how African Americans used the power of faith, determination and formal and informal institutions to help move the dial of justice forward.

  • Education and Uplift explores the ways African American communities went to great lengths to receive an education and challenge the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

  • Work and Play serves as a visual reminder of universal human experiences while helping shape understandings of the social conditions surrounding black life. African Americans experienced levity and the chance to enjoy life’s simple moments, even in the midst of adversity.

Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at nmaahc.si.edu.