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Henry Clay Anderson (1911–1998) was a professional African-American photographer who lived and worked in the segregated town of Greenville, Mississippi. His business, called the Anderson Photo Service, was founded in Greenville in 1948. What makes his output unique is the fact that he documented a proud, dignified community of middle-class African-Americans that existed in his town, both before, and throughout, the Civil Rights Movement. Until Anderson’s collection came to light, middle-class people of color from this era, have not, as a rule, been well documented within the context of greater American history.
From roughly the 1950s to the 1970s, Anderson was called upon to photograph every aspect of his relatively prosperous community: the daily lives of the men and women who built the Greenville schools, churches, and hospitals; weddings; funerals; sports events; proms; itinerant entertainers; a wide range of professionals at work; and of course, studio portraits of individuals and families. His work had strong political overtones, especially when he shot events related to the Civil Rights Movement.
Anderson’s oeuvre is documented in the publication Separate But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson, with essays by Clifton L. Taulbert, Mary Panzer, and Shawn Wilson, published by PublicAffairs, New York, 2002. His work is solely represented on the private market by Charles Schwartz Ltd (www.cs-photo.com).
The entirety of Anderson’s vintage oeuvre—thousands of negatives and prints—is in the collection of a newly formed museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
[Courtesy of Charles Schwartz, June 2008]