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The Photography of William Bullard, 1897-1917: Worcester’s People of Color Community

February 8 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Presentation by Frank Morrill

The Jacob Edwards Library is pleased to host the fourth part of the exhibition “The Photography of William Bullard, 1897-1917: Worcester’s People of Color Community” in honor of Black History Month.

As part of this project, Mr. Morrill is going to present a talk on the journey from discovery and identification of this integral part of the African American experience in our region, to making the collection accessible to the wider community.

Through some good luck, retired teacher Frank Morrill had the opportunity to buy this significant historical collection of a uniquely rare treasure trove of glass plate negatives of African Americans/Native Americans in Worcester. Over the past few years, other selections from the collection were displayed. This year’s exhibit will display many portraits that have never been exhibited in public before.

The negatives are those of the late itinerant photographer William S. Bullard, of Worcester and later North Brookfield, who, between 1894 and 1917, took a vast amount of images of the city’s streetscapes, businesses and local residents. Morrill, who has published several books about Worcester and other local communities, purchased the Bullard collection, approximately 5400 glass plates, in 2003 to use in further research focused on Worcester streets and architecture. In 2013 his granddaughter, Hannah, accidently discovered a negative of a person of color that was incorrectly filed and research began that led to this rare historical treasure.

There are approximately 240 images of people of color, mostly living in the Beaver Brook area along Park Avenue within the first four decades of having obtained their freedom. Approximately 80 percent of the portraits were identified by Bullard in his logbook, which is the key to the collection. Morrill and Professor Janette Greenwood of Clark University have researched the identified Bullard sitters since 2014 and have discovered a large number of descendants, many of whom had never seen a photo of, or knew the history of, their ancestors.


Jacob Edwards Library
236 Main Street
Southbridge, MA United States
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