BY KENYA DOWNS
The New York Times is digging deep into its own archives, revisiting historical moments the paper may have missed. As part of a series for Black History Month, the Times is sharing never-before-seen images while exploring the untold stories behind them.
The Times staff combed through more than five million photos and 300,000 negatives for this project. Some capture historic events while others highlight well-known figures like actress and singer Lena Horne, and civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It’s quite a dive into history,” says Rachel Swarns, New York Times’ metro columnist. “Readers are really responding.”
Readers are even chiming in with their own memories. After The Times posted a photo from 1949 of Jackie Robinson giving a speech to the Sociology Society of City College in New York, reader feedback uncovered that he was talking about his work with the YMCA in Harlem. Robinson had five months of the baseball off-season coaching underprivileged children.
Swarns says there are a variety of reasons why these photos were never published. Those include having a small staff and the limited use of photos at the time. But just as important as why these photos went unpublished, are the photos that were never taken and the stories that never told. Swarn acknowledges there are many holes.
“We have also really got to be frank and honest and acknowledge that this was a time period when African-Americans were marginalized in media,” Swarns says. “Some of those holes likely have to do with the biases of our editors at the time.”
The New York Times will publish images daily throughout Black History Month.
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