February 23rd, 2017 | Updated on April 21st, 2023
This incredible set of antique glass negatives gives a rare glimpse into the everyday life of early 20th century African Americans and immigrants in the Midwest. Amateur photographer John Johnson took hundreds of pictures of the African American and immigrant communities in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the early 1900s.
Johnson’s photography gives a rare view into the empowerment of African Americans and immigrants across the country, not just in large cities. Take a look
1. This unidentified woman wears an elegant hat and gloves and is sitting in front of a backdrop.
2. This unknown woman stands in front of a backdrop wearing a winter coat, a fur muff and a collar.
3. The seated woman to the right also has an individual portrait. Where the backdrop doesn’t cover on the right, the side of a building can be seen.
4. This is the same unknown porch where the baby carriage portrait was taken.
5. This baby is getting a portrait in a spring suspension baby carriage.
6. Johnson has her posed similarly to other portraits in front of a house and porch.
7. The Woman is standing in an ‘open-air studio’ beside a screen door to a house.
8. She is standing on a rug between two plants and has a backdrop set up behind her.
9. While this baseball player has not been identified, his team was likely sponsored by Frank Gillen, the president of Gillen and Boney Candy Company of Lincoln. Based on his mitt, this player was a catcher on the team.
10. This unknown couple are standing in front of a backdrop set up outside against a clapboard. house.
11. These two children are posing together in front of a backdrop in what appears to be something of an ‘open-air studio’ where Johnson sometimes did portraits.
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12. This man sitting relaxed in a rocking chair holding a piece of paper.
13. Vashti Agnes Knight, left, and her husband Bartel King Mosby, right.
14. It is believed this boy is standing in front of a wall of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, Lincoln’s second African American church founded in 1879.
15. Baby sits in a chair for a portrait. On the left of the frame the hem of a woman’s dress can be seen.
16. Florence Jones is pictured on the bicycle with her mother Kate Constellawaii Wilson.
17. The three women in the portrait are believed to be Florence Jones, left, Elenora ‘Kit’ Carriger (1893-1981), right, and Kit’s mother Alice Carriger, center, they were very active in Newman Methodist Episcopal Church.
18. Leon, left, and Brevy Hill Lillie, right, are pictured in front of a backdrop.
19. Though this young man had his portrait done on the same porch as the woman believed to be Dorothy Loving, he is not her husband Clayton Lewis.
20. The woman in the portraits is believed to be Dorothy Loving. Dorothy married Clayton Lewis around 1924.
21. Frances is pictured inside the same house, but dressed to go out. Johnson took various pictures of subjects in several poses.
22. Johnson photographed Frances Hill (1904-1932) inside the home where she lived with John and Mabel Galbreath for most of the 1920s.
23. The schoolchildren in front of Lincoln High School, though the children in the front rows do not appear to be high school age, though some of the girls in the front row are holding piano music.
24. The identity of these two men, though the address ‘2001’ correlates with the home of George and Fronia Butcher at 2001 U Street. George is believed to be the man on the left.
25. Johnson photographed these two women from the picnic, either before or after, with the pitbull terrier standing on the table.
26. The benches have been angled out and it is suspected that the couple standing at the head of the table are the hosts.
27. This woman wearing a sheepskin jacket is also standing in front of the same house marked 851.
28. This man is standing outside 851 with a tuba and music attached. There were at least two African American bands in Lincoln around that time.
29. The man and five women. Johnson chose a green background for this photograph. While the man’s stance seems to be more formal, the women are standing and kneeling casually.
30. Mamie Griffin is pictured sitting in a chair outside in front of a backdrop. She is posed with a copy of the romance novel, The Wife of Monte Cristo.
31. Mamie Griffin was a cook married to Edward Griffin, a waiter at the Lincoln Hotel.
32. This house, 1821 South 16th Street, was the home of Julius and Tillie Miller in 1912 to 1913. Julius was listed as a glazier with a glass company and a laborer.
33. The three children with dark hair are siblings, children of Lebanese-born Alexander and Anise Zakem. James is holding the bike on the far left beside his younger sister Lillian.
34. She is photographed wearing a modern shirtdress as she poses for her portrait.
35. This photograph of a military encampment was most likely taken at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Lincoln because of the bleachers that can be seen in the background between the tents.