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Railroad Crossing Guard (Richmond, Virginia), from the project The Negro in Virginia

@ Smithsonian American Art Museum


McNeill was hired to take photographs for the publication The Negro in Virginia, one of more than a dozen undertakings on the subject of black life and history launched by the Federal Writers’ Project in the late 1930s. Using text by African American authors, interviews with former slaves, statistical surveys, and photographs, the project sought to dispel myths about slavery and focus attention on the contemporary lives of black Virginians. McNeill understood that editors aimed for a noncontroversial book. “What they wanted were pictures of people at work, pictures that would show the soul of people in their jobs…even for people in menial occupations…I tried to be as positive as I could.”African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Gelatin Silver Print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase
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Smithsonian American Art Museum

Record Harvested From

Smithsonian Institution