This is a collection of approximately 1018 real photo postcards portraying African Americans, dating from approximately 1905 to approximately 1946. Each postcard is approximately 3½ by 5½ inches with a black-and-white photograph on one side and a postcard format on the reverse. Although these were printed in postcard format, they are not regular postcards. Real photo postcards are actual photographs which were typically printed in tiny editions, from one to perhaps twenty copies; regular postcards are mass-produced. In the present collection a few have been mailed as postcards, with ink text and postage on the reverse. Some have informal written notes of identification or greetings to relatives and friends. Most are blank.
The collection contains 403 portraits of women; 143 portraits of men; 89 group portraits of families and gatherings; 38 portraits of children; 60 portraits of rural life. There are rare photographs of the return of the 10th Cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers," at the Battle of Carrizal, Mexico, in 1916; in addition to black soldiers in World War I; black sports figures; prisoners in chain gangs; blacks in such occupations as sheep tenders, sod breakers, resort wheelchair drivers, limousine chauffeurs, turpentine distillers, and other roles. One photograph documents a lynching in Russellville, Kentucky in 1908. Several illustrate racial stereotypes.