The Randolph Linsly Simpson Collection presents a vivid picture of black life and American racial attitudes from the 1850s to the 1940s. It includes about 2,500 items, chiefly historical photographs, along with slave ship manifests, military medals, and civic trophies, postcards, stereo views of daily life in the old South, and more.
Highlights of the collection include vintage albumen photographs of Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. DuBois, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, along with nineteenth century daguerreotypes of politicians and bankers, photos of cowboys and entertainers, emancipated slave children and carnival freaks. Formal studio portraits and family snapshots, post-mortem images, scenes on the factory floor and images of African-American men in military service.
For more than 25 years, Randolph Linsly Simpson collected objects relating to the African-American experience. A white man, he developed a deep appreciation for the African-American culture that dates to his childhood, growing up near the cemetery where Frederick Douglass is buried in Rochester, New York. His passion for collecting grew over the years, fueled by a desire to preserve the material record of black history in America which was rapidly disappearing.
Mr. Simpson’s extensive collection of African-American folk art was acquired by the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut in 1989.
A detailed description of the collection can be found on line: Randolph Linsly Simpson Collection.
Selected images from the collection are available in the Beinecke Library’s Digital Library Online: Simpson Collection Images.