Black Chronicles II

Eleanor Xiniwe, Member of The African Choir. London Stereoscopic Company, 1891. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Eleanor Xiniwe, Member of The African Choir. London Stereoscopic Company, 1891. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

MASSACHUSETTS

Cooper Gallery
102 Mt Auburn St
Cambridge
Through December 11, 2015

From the Hulton Archive, purchased by Getty Images in 1996, this potent gathering of rare and mostly never-seen images explores the presence of black subjects in late 19th- and early 20th-century British photography. More than one hundred photographic portraits, many side by side with original albumen cartes-de-visite, depict ordinary and prominent citizens of all stripes from the British Victorian era. The most recent publication of the intriguing African Choir portraits appeared more than 120 years ago in the London Illustrated News. As a collection, they accompany images of other well-known period personalities, some with extraordinary stories: Sara Forbes Bonetta (born in Sierra Leone, given as a gift to Queen Victoria), Ethiopian Prince Alemayehu (taken to Britain as a boy after his father committed suicide), international boxing champion Peter Jackson aka “The Black Prince” from St. Croix, and Kalulu the African “boy servant” and companion of British explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

After being closed for the summer, the Cooper Gallery is reopening with this show, produced in partnership with Autograph ABP, a British charitable organization founded in 1988 to promote and license photography marginalized in the United Kingdom. The gallery, funded in part by the Liberian industrialist Ethelbert Cooper, is part of Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, which is offering a rich autumn program of visiting fellows, art exhibitions, publications, research projects, archives, readings, and conferences.