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Getty Opens Access to 30,000 Historical Images of Black Diaspora

Matt Growcoot 3-4 minutes 7/13/2022
Charles S.L. Baker

Getty Images will allow access to 30,000 rarely seen images of the Black diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United States that date back to the 19th century.

The global picture agency has launched the Black History and Culture Collection to raise awareness of the history of black people in the US and UK, providing free non-commerical access to the historical and cultural images. Getty will grant access to educators, academics, researchers, and content creators, “enabling them to tell until stories around black culture.”

The curated collection has been handpicked from Getty’s voluminous archive, thought to contain over two million photographs.

The collection features portraits of Albert Jonas and John Xiniwe, two young South African singers, who toured Britain between 1891 and 1893 as part of the African Choir. The amazing pictures show them larking around with a camera and imitating Raphael’s Two Cherubs from the Sistine Madonna painting.

Indeed, the collection begins in the 1800s and goes right through to the 2020s. The broad anthology covers politics, sport, music, culture, military, and celebrity.

One image from the collection is of Black inventor Charles S.L. Baker, who is seen standing behind a radiator. It’s known as a friction radiator, a device that he patented after 23 years of experimentation. He established the Friction Heat and Boiler Company in 1904 and his radiator firm made him a millionaire.

Another set of fascinating photographs come from the Savoy Ballroom, a Harlem landmark, showing groups of Black people dancing and enjoying themselves at a time when nightclubs were still generally segregated, even in New York City. The lively pictures capture joyous movement, with the dancers displaying ecstatic faces as they do the dance of the day; the jitterbug.

“Getty Images is committed to making this historical content accessible to ensure a more authentic representation of world history and drive more meaningful dialogue,” says Cassandra Illidge, Vice President of Partnerships at Getty Images.

“This collection was curated in partnership with a roster of prestigious historians and educators with the goal of providing unfettered access to historical and contemporary imagery which will help content creators who have been seeking an inclusive visualization of history.”

The Black History and Culture Collection is part of a wider program of activity Getty Images has made toward anti‑racism, inclusion, and dismantling discrimination. To access the collection you must apply to Getty.


Image credits:Header photo courtesy of Library of Congress.