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Images of Blacks in Harper's Weekly

[ News images | Political Cartoons | Blackville ]


Harper's Weekly was a New York based newspaper in the last half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In weekly issues, Harper's presented a mixture of news stories, gossip, poetry, and most notably, wood-engraved illustrations. These pictures remain one of the best sources for lively, informative images of nineteenth-century America. Before photography developed as a viable medium for mass publication of images, engravings made from artists' sketches relayed news of both the everyday and the extraordinary to newspaper and magazine audiences. Where that news concerned black people, the related prints continue to inform modern audiences about the arrangement of people in places of the late nineteenth century. Originally issued in large numbers, few images from Harper's have survived in good condition. Those that do continue to be interesting, historical and very collectible prints.

All prints are wood engravings published in New York in issues of Harper's Weekly. All are in very good condition, except as noted.

News Images

A Cotton Blockade at Meridian, Mississippi

Political Cartoons

Within the spectrum of Harper's images, political cartoons occupied a particularly eloquent niche. With such famous cartoonists as Thomas Nast, the magazine was poised both to reflect and to shape national opinion of current affairs. By employing the figure of the black man as a symbol of regions, ideologies, and race, Nast and his contemporaries documented the range of attitudes held by Harper's European-American readers toward Americans of African descent.

moreGo to page with more cartoons by Thomas Nast

Blackville Prints

While the "Darktown" prints by Currier & Ives are the most famous images of post-bellum African Americans, more people probably saw this series in Harper's Weekly. With its impressive circulation around the United States, Harper's reached more than 10,000 subscribers with each issue. To white subscribers, the satires were humorous. To modern viewers, they reveal the racism with which America has always struggled, perhaps never so keenly as during Reconstruction. Illustrators who contributed to this series were Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1833-1905), William Ludwell Sheppard (1833-1912), S.C. McCutcheon (fl. in New York 1880-1883) and "Sphinx."

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated February 5, 2019