Photographs featuring children tend to invoke the more cherished qualities of the human experience — innocence, an intense sense of hope and a will to seek silver linings. The images of African-American children that are featured in the upcoming Smithsonian photo book Picturing Children especially resonate with any family’s wish that their child be reminded of their “dignity and sacred worth [that] no outside force can touch,” as Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, says in one of the book’s introductory essays.
Picturing Children is host to scenes ranging from playful moments during summer camp, school recess and high school proms, to historic images of enslaved families and young marchers in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Some photographs feature instantly recognizable faces — Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King with their children, President Barack Obama with a child in the Oval Office — while others capture quiet moments between the photographer and his or her unnamed subject, such as a photograph from Jamel Shabazz that features a boy in his community doing a flip on a beat-up mattress. Though the collection features both portraits and candid shots, taken together they offer a window into both individual lives and the arc of American history.
Picturing Children is the fourth installment in the Double Exposure series, released by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, on the heels of Through the African American Lens, Civil Rights and the Promise of Equality and African American Women.
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