100 Americans

100 Americans100 AMERICANS: A Presence of the Past in Philadelphia was an installation of 100 faces of African Americans that I photographed on the streets of Philadelphia. It was in response to the Rosenbach’s installation “Look Again: African American History is American History,” an exhibition of historical documents and books chronicling slavery and its’ slave owners. Signatures of our “founding fathers,” many of whom had been slave owners, were featured. Quotes from statements made by past American presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other early American leaders, were prominent.

I longed, however, for the voices of the slaves and a sense of them as human beings. I decided to include the attention and presence of contemporary Americans who identified as being of African descent. To initiate conversation with the public, I photographed the installation and made a portable binder version to show how African American history was being portrayed, as I walked the streets of Philadelphia. In this way, I photographed 100 Philadelphians of African descent who would be willing to be placed in the context of “Look Again African American History is American History?”

100 AMERICANS: A Presence of the Past in Philadelphia
a project commissioned by the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, PA.
Copyright © Clarissa Sligh, 2007.