Ohio State University: Ohio State, Getty Images partner to uncover untold stories and pictures of Black history

The Ohio State University has collaborated with Getty Images, a global visual content creator and marketplace, to launch Picturing Black History, a joint initiative to recontextualize and surface Black histories, providing new perspectives and shedding light on some of the most culturally significant moments of the past.

Part of Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective — published jointly by Ohio State and Miami University — Picturing Black History contributes to an ongoing public dialogue on the significance of Black history and Black life in the United States and around the world. Picturing Black History directly embraces the power of historical understanding to help re-examine visual history through digital formats, challenging the inherent biases of 200 years of photographic history.

“The issues of racism and Black lives have perhaps never been more urgent to our national conversation than they are right now, nor has it ever been more important to understand the history of Black America in all its complexity,” said Nicholas Breyfogle, associate professor of history at Ohio State and co-editor of Picturing Black History. “The challenge is to bring this history to wider audiences so that, with deeper understanding, we can forge a more equitable and just future. Picturing Black History and our exciting new collaboration with Getty Images strive to meet that challenge.”

By combining the breadth and depth of Getty Images’ archives with the renowned expertise of Origins and Ohio State’s Department of History, the project uses the power of visuals to highlight stories of oppression and resistance, perseverance and resilience, freedom dreams, imagination and joy within the United States and around the globe. To support the learning and expansion of these historical narratives, the editorial team at Picturing Black History features esteemed authors from across academia and cultural institutions matching in-depth essays with historical pictures. Stories include the revolution of Black women and girls, the life of Susie Baker and the drive for education equality before Brown v. Board of Education, and the Silver Jubilee of the Tuskegee Institute and work of Booker T. Washington, among many others.⁠

“By bringing historical perspective to rarely seen photos, Ohio State and Getty Images are bringing Black history to life through this collaboration,” said Melissa L. Gilliam, executive vice president and provost at Ohio State. “I am grateful to our faculty and students for letting us see these lesser-known figures and milestones, which deepens our understanding of American history.”

“Through this collaboration with Ohio State and Origins, we have an opportunity to challenge dated narratives and help enrich our learnings of Black history,” said Bob Ahern, director of archive photography at Getty Images. “By opening up our archives, we have a chance to embrace the power of photography and the written word to revisit histories that have so often been sidelined.”

The types of stories being explored for Picturing Black History are continuously expanding, and the partnership with Getty Images provides the project with an opportunity to present stories and narratives that often fail to make it into history books. The project intentionally examines historical actors, such as women, children and members of the LGBTQ+ community, who often do not get highlighted in historical examinations. These narratives are just as important as, and often intertwined with, narratives of civil rights and resistance.

“What has shifted in the past few years, especially following the murder of George Floyd, is the growing urgency and hunger from all people to better understand history, to be able to make broader connections, and to situate their own lived experiences within these historical narratives,” said Daniela Edmeier, a PhD student in the Department of History who is working on the Picturing Black History project. “These narratives that are simultaneously difficult to reckon with but that are of the utmost importance to embrace truthfully and examine with critical open eyes.”

“Picturing Black History is a partnership that highlights visual imagery of Black history that is too often veiled from public view,” said Damarius Johnson, another PhD student in the Department of History who is working on the project.

Through Getty Images, Picturing Black History also has access to archivists and photographers, contributing to behind-the-lens perspectives around how history is documented, cataloged and remembered. The project also has a growing body of essays that highlight the international networks of Black history.