Happy Founders Day to the wonderful women of Alpha Kappa Alpha! The first sorority for African-American women was founded 105 years ago today at Howard Univerity, where this photo was taken in 1945 by the legendary photographer, Addison N. Scurlock (1883-1964). Photo: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.


QUEENS OF THE BALL [Click Image To Enlarge]

Portraits of debutantes of The Links, Incorporated, Chapter of Washington, D.C., circa 1960′s. The Links are one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women of color, who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

Black History Spotlight: Todd Duncan

Baritone Todd Duncan was a pioneering opera singer who began his career in 1934, in a production of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana with the Aeolian Opera. The following year, he was chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Porgy in “Porgy and Bess.” In 1945, he became the first African American singer to join a major American opera company, the New York City Opera, and the first to perform with an otherwise all-white cast.

In the years leading up to his New York City opera debut, Mr. Duncan taught at Howard University, where he ultimately became the head of its public school music and professional voice departments before leaving to pursue a career in music in 1945. He would later return to teaching, both privately in Washington D.C. and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and continue doing so well into his 90′s.

Photo: Addison Scurlock/National Museum of American History


Happy Wedding Wednesday! 

We loved the wedding photos highlighted in our last post about the Scurlock Photo Studio here in Washington DC so much, we decided to share some more!

Make sure you read our previous post to learn about the Scurlock Photo Studio and the beautiful fashion displayed in all of the photos. 


Things are really moving along here at the National Museum of American History! After nearly six months, we’ve been able to make our way through the some 250,000 photographic prints in the Scurlock Studio Records Collection. Complicated not only because of its sheer size, this collection was also particularly problematic as many of the prints had duplicates scattered throughout the dozens of page boxes we found them in. To make matters even more complex, many of the individuals in these prints still remain unidentified as we’re nearing the end of this initial processing phase. Against all odds, we’ve consolidated of all these prints and sorted them into their various series and subseries and are now ready to put them in their archival boxes!

A “before” picture of unidentified portraits that we matched to their duplicates.

Wedding pictures as far as the eye can see!

A work in progress: processed and alphabetized folders.

The (almost!) finished product.

Post submitted by  Elizabeth Livesey, DCAAP Processing Assistant 

African American Women @ Howard University

Six African American female students crossing street on the campus of Howard University (Washington D.C.) on the first day of class. 1940’s. Addison Scurlock, photographer.


Source: Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


Vintage African American photography courtesy of Black History Album, The Way We Were.