The Way It Was

Few images suggest the lackadaisical days of summer better than this photograph of the Harvey C. Jackson family


Photograph Courtesy Of The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library (Harvey C. Jackson Photographic Collection)

1910Few images suggest the lackadaisical days of summer better than this photograph of the Harvey C. Jackson family enjoying the balmy weather, circa 1910. Adults soak up the sunshine while two children play with toy boats in a pond in the backyard of their home on Beaubien. Harvey C. Jackson Sr. (1876-1957) was behind the camera. It’s purported that he was the first African-American in Detroit to own a photography studio, which was also on Beaubien. In addition to portraits taken at his studio, Jackson chronicled the day-to-day life of African-Americans in Black Bottom, which was on the lower east side of Detroit. The appellation Black Bottom originally had no racial connections, being so named because of the area’s low elevation and dark soil. According to The Detroit Almanac, the city’s black population numbered fewer than 6,000 around the time this photo was taken; a decade later, the count was about 40,000. Jackson was born in Cleveland, but came to Detroit as a youth. He worked first as a postman before finding his true calling as a photographer. Much of his work is archived in the Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection in Midtown.

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