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Kershaw County Historical Society program March 11

Posted: March 5, 2018 4:11 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.
www.bullardphotos.org/

The James J. and Jennie Bradley Johnson Family, 1900, by photographer William A. Bullard, whose work links South Carolina-Massachusetts ties.

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In Camden for a research trip of several days, Dr. Janette Greenwood will be the main speaker for the Kershaw County Historical Society’s program, “Migration and Home Ties,” on Sunday, March 11, at 3 p.m. at the Historic Robert Mills Courthouse.

A history professor for 17 years at Clark University in Worchester, Mass., she hopes to learn and share information about historical and genealogical connections between that community and Camden. She has already located some Camden kin of families who migrated to Worchester and looks forward to meeting more.

On her visit she is interested, she says, “in hearing what people know.”

At the Society program, Dr. Greenwood will share and discuss images from a recent exhibition she helped curate at the Worchester Art Museum -- “Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917.”

Joining Dr. Greenwood at the podium during part of the program will be her collaborator on the study of the photographs. Owner of the images, Frank Morrill is a retired teacher and history buff, who used other Bullard shots of town buildings and scenes to publish a photographic history of Worcester.

Dr. Greenwood had already published First Fruits of Freedom, about former slaves who migrated to the Worchester area, when she was introduced by Mr. Morrill to his collection’s individual portraits of people of color around the turn of the century.

The exhibition’s Web page (www.bullardphotos.org) points out that many of the glass negatives of the photographs had “remained untouched for nearly a hundred years.” Photographer Bullard, a white resident of a racially diverse Worcester neighborhood, “took 236 portraits of people of color -- African Americans and people of Native American descent -- most of whom were his neighbors. Never owning a studio, Bullard captured his sitters in their yards, porches, gardens, and parlors.” Such views, especially for the time, were rare.

Furthermore, “Due to the fortunate survival of his logbook, over 80 percent of Bullard’s sitters can be identified, making this collection especially rare and enables this exhibition to tell specific stories about individuals and their community.”

Those stories, some of which may be found online, were built as Dr. Greenwood trained her university students in research and in oral history procedures and sent them out in the community to learn more about the persons and places in the photographs.

An online search will yield a number of blogs, discussions, and samples of work that chronicle the processes and progress of the projects mentioned. These resources can prove useful to students, teachers, or community members interested in carrying out similar activities.

One more resource Dr. Greenwood says she will make available in Camden is a copy of “a collection of newspaper clippings from the local (Worcester) newspaper, from the 1930s through the 1970s, given to me recently by a member of an old Worcester family.” She states of the clippings, “They are mostly obituaries of African Americans -- and it is amazing how many people were born in Camden,” adding parenthetically, “at first glance more than were born in the city of Worcester itself!”

Surnames familiar in the Camden area that Dr. Greenwood mentioned encountering in the Worcester study of the photographs or the obituaries include Perkins, Benson, Carlos, Shropshire, Truesdale, Truesdell, English, Bell, Boykin, Rainey, Carlos, Brevard, Kennedy, Rhodes, Adamson, Brisbane, Fisher, Taylor, Jones, Spring, Hayes, and others. Some members of those old family lines since then or today may, of course, have other surnames now.

The Kershaw County Historical Society meeting is open to the public. Membership in the Society is available on payment of dues. More information about the program, the speakers, and the organization is available online (www.kershawcountyhistoricalsociety.org).

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