Scurlock Family Photos Immortalized Black Society

Addison Scurlock and sons Robert and George made a business out of photographing Washington, D.C.'s black society. Their studio opened in 1911, and collectively they captured nearly a hundred years of D.C.'s "secret city" — an educated, affluent, and culturally influential black middle class of entertainers, intellectuals and military servicemen. Veronica Miller, a production assistant at Tell Me More, pays tribute to the Scurlocks for Tell Me More's Black History Month series.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, today we continue our series of short essays for Black History Month. We've asked guests and some NPR colleagues to say which figures or events from black history they find most inspiring.

Yesterday we heard from NPR's Scott Simon. Today, we have one of TELL ME MORE's own.

VERONICA MILLER: I'm Veronica Miller, production assistant here at TELL ME MORE. And for Black History Month I'm paying tribute to a family of black photographers. Addison Scurlock and his sons, Robert and George, made a business out of photographing Washington, D.C.'s black society. Their studio opened in 1911 and collectively they captured nearly 100 years of D.C. secret city - an educated, affluent and culturally influential black middle class. But when the city's race riots broke out in 1968, the mayhem was squared in their camera lenses.

Addison, Robert and George have passed away, but hundreds of thousands of their negatives and photos are preserved in the Smithsonian Institution. My favorite Scurlock image, it's a photo of six women at my alma mater, Howard University, sometime in the 1920s. They are at a football game and they are dressed to the nines. Close hats, overcoats with jeweled brooches and even a fox stole.

It shows the importance of the Scurlock's work, leaving to posterity the beauty, dignity and poise of a vibrant black society.

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MARTIN: That was Veronica Miller, production assistant here at TELL ME MORE, paying tribute to black photographers Addison, Robert, and George Scurlock.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Let's talk more tomorrow.

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