Photography showcasing black people, especially old black and white photos of people I don’t know, is on the short list of my favorite things about the African-American experience. Fans of this art form explain it in different ways but photography aficionados tend to appreciate the mysterious power surrounding the unknown personal stories of everyday people. Along these lines, Dwayne Rodgers created The Black Vernacular to serve as “a living document of the deceased” and offer a glimpse into our black American past through old photographs submitted via social media.

In an interview with Okayplayer, Rodgers explains that the project was inspired by Black History month and aims to “shift the paradigm of the ‘great person’ conception of history [by acknowledging] the everyday person for their contribution to our collective legacy.” The collection includes some well-known people but mostly unknowns, and all of the photography is amateur — hence the term “vernacular.” The results, scanned from photos spanning decades of family and friends, are intriguing and their numbers growing. Pictures of folks’ parents and grandparents taken with strained color film juxstaposed with ripped and grainy black & whites whose stories are hard to even imagine…it’s quite priceless work.

Check out a few images from The Black Vernacular and follow the link if you’re interested in seeing more or submitting photos of your own.

Thomas Gage, Sr.

Valencia Stubbs Watts and Joseph Watts

Geneva Taylor

  • Yb

    It so nice being able to see pictures of black folks from different eras.

    Thank You

  • African Mami

    that Geneva Taylor one is BOMB! It reminds me of pictures my grandma hang in her village living room….I can hear the birds singing, cows mooing, grass with morning dew on em, just simple village life!

  • sophistaphunk

    So grateful that you featured the photo of my grandma and papa ( Valencia and Joe watts) ^_^

  • alldawg

    nice pics…
    love the womens hair style and how they dressed, no weave and classy.

  • Bisous

    I love old everything. I really like seeing glimpses into the past and I rarely come across well preserved photos of black people. I like the posts you shared of great depression photos as well. Are there more sites like this?


    the photo of Thomas Gage Sr. reminds me of a recent fashion trend in Congo I read about. “The Gentlemen of Bacongo” looks at the the vibrant street style of the ‘Sapeurs’, elegant and immaculately dressed dandies from the heart of the Congo.”

    Indeed there is nothing new under the sun…

  • Candy 1

    I enjoyed the 30′s/40′s photos, too.

  • Second Born

    This potential scope of this project is incredible. I follow Dwayne Rodgers the artist responsible this on twitter. He’s a passionate thinker/artist and has a real ability to engage people. All thumbs up. More meaningful art please!

  • Dalili

    Awesome! Love them all, especially the one of Mmekutmfon Essien; there’s something hauntingly beautiful about her.

  • T.

    That trend isn’t that recent though. The Sapeur tradition goes back, like 20, 30 years or more.

  • CHE

    Theres *Vintage Black Glamour* tumbler.

  • CHE

    Had to throw that in there, right…How classy of YOU!

  • Yeahright2011

    They looked better then than we do now. Healthy and way more stylish. Mmekutmfon Essien has beautiful eyes.

  • Yeahright2011

    That was my favorite too.

  • AJ

    African Mami – seriously, no disrespect, but are you REALLy from Africa? And no, I don’t mean 400 or 500 years back. I mean like your parents, or you directly..Just curious.

  • Pearlsrevealed

    Love it! I stared at the photos like they were of my people.

  • African Mami

    Curiosity killed the cat-and it supposedly had nine lives.

  • Tiffany W.

    Your granny gives magnificent side-eye.

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