Celebrate Richard Samuel Roberts with panel discussion and book signing

Richard Samuel Roberts (American, 1880 – 1936). Unidentified Child, 1920s. Gelatin silver print, posthumously printed from the original glass plate negative. Gift of Gerald E. Roberts, Beverly Roberts, Cornelius C. Roberts and Wilhelmina R. Wynn. On view in CMA Collection Gallery 5 (Art and Identity)

The Columbia Museum of Art with USC Press announces Celebrating A True Likeness: The Black South of Richard Samuel Roberts 1920-1936 – New Edition, a panel discussion on the extraordinary photography of Columbia’s own Richard Samuel Roberts and the importance of his work in South Carolina’s history, on Saturday, July 13, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. A book signing will follow the panel discussion.

Roberts (1880 – 1936) was a self-taught photographer who established a portrait studio on Washington Street in the heart of the Columbia’s Black commercial district. He was one of the few major African American commercial photographers working in the region during the first half of the 20th century. As a result of the more than 3,000 negatives recovered in 1977 from a crawl space under the Roberts home, there is a rich visual chronicle of this vibrant cross section of Columbia residents.

Thomas L. Johnson and Phillip C. Dunn received a 1987 Lillian Smith Book Award for their work on A True Likeness: The Black South of Richard Samuel Roberts 1920-1936. This new edition of A True Likeness features a foreword by Elaine Nichols, the supervisory curator of culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., as well as a new afterword by Johnson.

“Richard Roberts was more than a portrait photographer. He was an artist who painted his subjects with light,” says Dunn. “His portraits dignified and commemorated the accomplishments of African Americans as they gained entry into America’s middle class. Even more importantly, however, his photographs examined this struggle in a way that elevated and celebrated the effort and sacrifice that were required of the Black community to succeed. Other Black photographers from this period like James Van Der Zee, Augustus Polk or Addison Scurlock may be better known, but none of them were better photographic artists than Richard Roberts.”

Panelists include Dunn, Johnson, University of South Carolina Associate Professor Bobby Donaldson, and Historic Columbia’s Research and Archives Manager Katharine Allen. Facilitated by CMA Director of Education and Engagement Jackie Adams.

Free with membership or admission. Books for sale at the CMA Shop on day of event.

For more information, visit columbiamuseum.org.

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