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Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians & Early 20th Century Ancestors Book Release

Tanzy Ward

Black Americana encompasses more than inaccurate caricatures and stereotypes. African Americans used photography to showcase themselves in a dignified and authentic light. Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors honors the diverse portrait collection that reflects accurate Black Americana characterization. Every photograph is an original copy from my carefully curated personal collection. Although the photos do not contain the names of the subjects, each portrait allows us to visualize parts of their stories through descriptive details. It is critical to preserve these captivating photos and honor their legacies. The portrait collection spans the Civil War Era, Reconstruction, and the early 20th century. From the beginning of permanent photographic inventions during the 19th century, Black ancestors have always used the lens to reflect their authentic selves. Unsung Portraits celebrates their pioneering legacies and positive self-portrayals. 

Victorian Era sixth plate daguerreotype portrait of an unidentified African American man. Courtesy of my collection (Tanzy Ward), featured in Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors 


Every historical portrait within the collection tells another part of American history, which is often not celebrated enough. These meritorious images emphasize elegance, dignity, poise, and positive self-identity formation. Despite the social injustices and inaccurate depictions that plagued society, Black ancestors utilized photographic technology to showcase their values and distinguished stories. The collection includes daguerreotypes, Carte de Visite prints (CDV), and Real Photo Postcards (RPPC). The portrait book also contains historical reference information, including biographical details of pioneering Victorian Era Black photographers. It was essential to include versatile examples that are primary sources and aid in updating the narrative of Black Americana symbolism. 

Photo collage of original antique portraits included in ''Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors''
Unsung Portraits is the first portrait book I created and my second book publication. Hidden Legacies: African Presence in European Antiques focused on the positive and accurate depictions of Black people created by European artists. Unsung Portraits emphasizes the authentic and uplifting images that reflect Black American history. The portrait book showcases the non-distorted candid photographs within the Black Americana realm. I cherish and honor their individual stories, which are all essential intricate pieces of America's identity. 
''Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors'' is Available to Purchase on Amazon now and at Zanathia Jewelry later this month. ( 
''Hidden legacies: African Presence in European Antiques'' is available at Zanathia Jewelry. 

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