E.D. Nixon (left) and Rosa Parks at Montgomery, Alabama, courthouse, 1956. (Photo: George Tames/The New York Times)
In February of 2016, a team of New York Times staff members discovered dozens of unpublished photographs in the newspaper’s archive. The images covered a wide range of topics and personalities that shed light on African American history over the past several decades, from politics to music to sports and the arts, as well as revealing views of everyday life. Included in the findings were a 27-year-old Jesse Jackson leading a rally of 4,000 people in Chicago; Rosa Parks arriving at a Montgomery Courthouse; and Aretha Franklin backstage at the Apollo Theater.
The images have been collected in Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives (Black Dog & Leventhal), offering a behind-the-scenes look at many important photos and the stories behind them. Were the photos—or the people in them—not deemed newsworthy enough? Did the images not arrive in time for publication? Were they pushed aside by words at an institution long known as the Gray Lady?
Darcy Eveleigh, photo editor at the Times, and Rachel Swarns, a journalist and author who writes about race and race relations as a contributing writer for newspaper, in conversation with Rhea Combs, curator of film and photography at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, offer a look at the photos, discuss the roles they played in their rediscovery, and examine how the extraordinary collection opens a once-hidden window into history.
Copies of Unseen are available for purchase and signing.