Saturday, January 17, 2009

Who Was Lena Gray? Early African American Photographs

Just yesterday, I perused the University of Maryland's Baltimore Campus and came across several photos of African Americans from Washington, D.C. Among them are several portraits of a woman named Lena Gray. A black friend of mine recently bemoaned the fact that it's nearly impossible to research an African American family tree without hitting the brick wall of the 1860s--before which time, few records were kept.

I was intrigued by the photos I found yesterday--and found three photos, all taken of a Lena Gray.

The first (above) was taken by photographer William L. Spedden, also taken in Washington DC during the 1870s. It is captioned, "Lena Gray as a baby, Uncle William's daughter." The photo is so faded that I've had to brutally heighten the contrast in order to make out her face.

Next, another photograph of Lena (right), now looking to be about eight or nine years old. Captioned "Lena Grey, Uncle William's daughter, it was taken by A.H. Beck, at 1532 7th Street, NW.

Astonishingly, there is one more photograph of Lena (below), this time taken by "Miller" in Minneapolis during the 1890s, and it bears Lena's signature. She now appears to be in her early 20s.

I have tried to locate Lena Gray in the standard internet genealogical sources, but haven't been successful. Would any of my readers be able to help? Perhaps out there are Gray descendants who would appreciate the photos.

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