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September 7, 2021

Amazing Portrait Photos of African-American Women in the 19th Century

Throughout the early nineteenth century, African Americans formed a substantial minority of inhabitants of the United States; 15 to 18 percent of the total population were free or enslaved black people. In 1800, there were about one million black people living in the country; by 1850, that number had grown to about 3.6 million.

White farmers enslaved the vast majority of African Americans living in the United States, but there were many free people of color living in cities and urban coastal areas. Of the four million black people residing in the United States in 1850, about 3.2 million were enslaved, and about 430,000 were free.

While white men enjoyed increased citizenship rights and privileges as the century progressed, for African Americans the opposite was true. The spirit of the American Revolution, which encouraged many states to gradually abolish slavery and slaveholders to undertake voluntary emancipation, declined after 1800. State governments, north and south, imposed harsher restrictions on both free and enslaved black populations.

Despite this hostile environment, African Americans in the Early Republic found ways to resist repression, maintain their communities, and combat slavery.

Here below is a set of amazing photos from mj aux that shows studio portraits of African-American women in the 19th century.


  1. I've seen several comments now that are negative or derogatory, but I just wanted to say thanks to whoever you are that is maintaining this site day in and day out. As a photographer seeing archives like this feel crucial to me and the fact that this website just exists free of charge is kind of miraculous. So thanks for that.

  2. It's wonderful to still have archival images of this period. I look forward to more images




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