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

1938 Robert McNeill Born: Washington, District of Columbia 1917 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 2005 gelatin silver print sheet: 8 1/2 x 10 in. (21.6 x 25.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase © 1938, Robert McNeill 1993.72.3 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

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

Keywords

Architecture - industry - railroad yard

Ethnic - African-American

Figure male

Landscape - Virginia - Richmond

Occupation - service - guard

photography - photoprint

paper

gelatin silver

About Robert McNeill

Born: Washington, District of Columbia 1917 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 2005

More works in the collection by
Robert McNeill