African-Americans struggled in the face of discriminatory laws, particularly after the United States Supreme Court legalized racial segregation.
Despite the difficulties, blacks were opening businesses, gaining college degrees and making progress. W.E.B. Du Bois collected evidence to assess progress in the thirty-five years after slavery was abolished.
This photograph, of a horse-drawn carriage in front of a black-owned business, was part of his evidence.
The Library of Congress provides more detail about Mr. Du Bois, his study and the evidence he presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition:
Included in an award-winning exhibit at the Paris Exposition, this photograph--one of 500 - was part of the evidence collected under the direction of W. E. B. DuBois to illustrate the condition, education, and literature of African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century, only thirty-five years after the abolition of slavery.
In his own description of the exhibit, DuBois noted that by 1900 African Americans owned one million acres of land and paid taxes on twelve million dollars worth of property.
In addition to photographs about black-owned businesses like this one in Georgia, the exhibit included a number of images related to successful black businesses elsewhere. (See "The Booker T. Washington Era, Part 1: Education, Economic and Social Progress," included in African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, an online Library of Congress Exhibition.)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the following of Du Bois:
History cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people.
There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man. (Quoted on the back cover of The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois.)
Click on the image for a better view.
Horse-drawn carriage in front of corner drugstore, Georgia, ca 1900.
From the W. E. B. DuBois Collection at the Library of Congress.
Image and quoted passage from the Library of Congress web site: African-American Odyssey.
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