William Bullard

Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897- 1917


Photographer William Bullard captured nearly 300 portraits of Black Southern migrants and Native Americans living in Central Massachusetts in the early twentieth century. Over 80 percent of the sitters have been identified allowing their personal stories to be told.

Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917, presents over 80 photographs of African Americans and Native Americans living in a working-class neighborhood in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Featuring men, women, and children of color in and around their homes, Bullard’s portraits capture a pivotal, underrepresented moment in American history between the end of Reconstruction and the Great Migration. These portraits provide insight into the lives and aspirations of Americans who have been largely neglected in photographic histories. Due to the fortunate survival of Bullard’s detailed logbook, over 80 percent of his sitters have been identified.

As a result, through years of archival research, various scholars and Clark University students have traced the lives of these sitters, identifying their jobs, houses of worship, and the community organizations they built at the turn of the century. This rich narrative is enhanced through interviews with the sitters’ descendants, over 100 of whom have been identified.

Rediscovering an American Community of Color highlights several themes that remain relevant to Americans today: refugee migration; the ways that people of color claimed full citizenship; community building; and race-based job discrimination. In addition, the Bullard portraits were created on the threshold of The New Negro Movement, which encouraged racial and cultural pride. This led in part to the popularization of photography within the Black community.

Labels and didactics elaborate on these themes and include quotes from several living descendants of Bullard’s sitters who were asked to reflect upon their ancestors’ portraits.

The exhibition includes 83 photographs printed from the original glass negatives, a reproduction of Bullard’s original ledger; object labels, and extended didactics; an 11th grade Massachusetts student curriculum that can be amended as needed to comply with various state requirements; and an accompanying second edition of the award-winning catalogue.


Worcester Art Museum Clark University

Space Requirements

1,000-2,000 sf

Loan Duration

Minimum 12 weeks can be extended up to 6 months


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