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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Typ 1314

Jo Tartt, Jr. collection of photographs


The collection includes photographs compiled by Jo C. Tartt Jr. relating to Black American life and racial narratives after the American Civil War.


  • Creation: circa 1863-1988


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


9 linear feet (7 boxes)

The collection includes photographs compiled by Jo C. Tartt Jr. relating to Black American life and racial narratives after the American Civil War. The images are of individual and group portraits, conditions of Black American life in late 19th and early 20th centuries, Blackface, violence against Black Americans in the 20th century, and a large number of commercial images depicting racist stereotypes and derogatory perceptions of Black Americans. Users may find some of the racist imagery and language found in, on, and with the images disturbing.

Biographical / Historical

Jo Cowin Tartt Jr. (1941 October 09-) is a white man from Alabama. He has been an ordained Episcopal priest, fine art dealer, and art gallery owner. He is also an amateur photographer and collector. His own photography focused on life in the Black Belt of Alabama from the 1960s through the 1980s. (Source: Jo Tartt Jr. and Judith Tartt Papers, The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections)


Original order by Jo Tartt, Jr. has been retained.

Physical Location

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

Other Finding Aids

Original inventory list compiled by Tartt is available upon request onsite at Houghton Library.

Custodial History

Ownership of this material prior to its collection by Jo C. Tartt is unknown, though some individual items may bear marks of previous ownership.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2022MH-12. Purchased from Hans P. Kraus Jr., Inc., with the Harrison D. Horblit Curator of Photography Fund, 2021 December 7.

Processing Information

Descriptive titles for the photographs have been devised by the archivist. If at all possible, the subject(s) in the photograph is identified by name. Race is noted in the title only if the race relation of the subjects seems critical to the understanding of the image. Many of the descriptive choices made by the archivist are based on the recommendations in the Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Resources. Based on this standard, the term Black is capitalized when in the context of identity and race, whereas the term white is not capitalized because the capitalization of the word is associated with white supremacy. Also as recommended by the Resources, the archivists uses the term Black or Black American instead of African American because we do not know who most of the people in the collection are, their personal or family history, or how they would have self-identified.

If present, original captions and inscriptions are included in a note and may include offensive, racist, pejorative, innacurate, and troubling terminology. The decision to include these was made so as not to censor the history around the creation of these images. If you have questions or comments about this, please contact Houghton Library. For more information, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Resources used in the creation of this finding aid include:

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Resources by Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP) Anti-Racist Description Working Group.

A Guide to Conscious Editing at Wilson Special Collections Library by Wilson Special Collections Library at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Universities Libraries.

Processing Information

Processed by Lilli Keaney, 2023 February


Jo Tartt, Jr. collection of photographs, circa 1863-1988 (MS Typ 1314): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University
2022 January 10
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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