Alvan S. Harper Photographic Collection

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African American history in Florida.

Nellie Franklin, ca. 1900

Nellie Franklin, ca. 1900

Photographer Alvan S. Harper captured scenes of middle class African Americans in Tallahassee from the 1880s to the 1910s. Portraits such as those taken by Harper provide a small window into Tallahassee’s black community during the indignity of the Jim Crow era.

Many of the photographs in the collection remain unidentified, including two featured in this post. If you have any additional information about images in the Harper Collection, please contact the State Archives of Florida: Archives@DOS.MyFlorida.com.

Woman wearing dress with roses on bodice and holding a fan, Tallahassee, ca. 1900

Some of Harper’s best negatives were lost when his studio was torn down in the 1920s. The negatives had been given to a Tallahassee historian who, because they were dirty, left them on a porch where they were mistaken for trash and taken to the dump.

Man in striped tie and pants, holding newspaper, Tallahassee, ca. 1900

About 2,000 more Harper negatives were found in 1946 in the attic of the house he had owned. A Tallahassee photographer printed 250 negatives and circulated the prints in the community for identification. The negatives were turned over to the State Library, and later transferred to the Florida Photographic Collection after it was founded in 1952.

Contact the Museum of Florida History for more information about the Alvan S. Harper traveling exhibit, part of the museum’s TREX Program.