March 20, 2015
“Seattle is a young city, young enough that most of its history can be traced through photographs. Until recently though, most of those photos have been official portraits or documentation of public works projects like the Lake Washington Ship Canal. But a collection recently donated to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) illuminates another facet of the city’s past.
“It includes tens of thousands of images from Seattle’s 20th-century African-American community, from portraits of the humming nightclub scene to family snapshots and photos of informal gatherings. All of these photographs were taken by the late Al Smith Sr. and are archived by the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Ohio. When Al Smith came of age in Seattle’s Central Area, the neighborhood was the heart of the Depression. Smith’s family didn’t have a lot of money — nobody did.”
“Until then, he’s simply thrilled to have the photographs. For one thing, they document Seattle’s black community. But more than that, Giske says the pictures look at the city through one man’s personal perspective.
“’We don’t have much like that in our collection. This is intensely personal. It’s friendly, just like Al was.’”
It is part of Digital Diaspora Family Reunion’s mission to build a photographic repository, where the community can support each other in identifying their history through family photographs. Take a look at some of the photographs to see if you recognize any people, places or stories. It is 1World1Family, let’s make a change and glorify another facet of Seattle’s history!