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Franklin Library Special Collections and Archives : Fisk Photograph Collection

Accessing the Franklin Library's Special Collections and Archives



W.E.B. Du Bois World War I

Photograph Collection

While in France in 1917, W.E.B. Du Bois began research for a proposed massive study on African American involvement in World War I. His study was tentatively titled Black Man in the Wounded World. Part of Du Bois extensive fieldwork and research from the unpublished Black Man in the Wounded World includes 259 photographs and 18 panoramas of African American and French African soldiers from the 372nd Infantry Companies A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, K, L, and M, 97th Infantry, and 371st Infantry. All photographs were taken between 1917 and 1918 during World War I, documenting the places and people involved.

Central Tennessee College

Photograph Collection

Central Tennessee College, a historically black college, operated in Nashville from 1870 to 1925. The college offered elementary, middle, and high school training and in 1874 began to issue college degrees.  In 1876, Central Tennessee College added Meharry Medical Department, now known as Meharry Medical College.  Central Tennessee College changed its name in 1922 to Walden University and in 1925 due to financial hardship, the college closed its doors. Through a donation, Fisk University’s Archive owns a collection of photographs from Central Tennessee College (Walden University). The collection ranges in date from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and consists mostly of portraits of students, families, and faculty associated with Central Tennessee College.

Cecile Barefield Jefferson 

Photograph Collection 

The Cecile Barefield Jefferson Collection photographs are essential to strengthening the current knowledge of African American education and family life in Tennessee, the United States, and abroad during the late nineteenth and early-twentieth-century. Cecile B. Jefferson (ca. 1882-1971), a graduate of Fisk University, served the institution for forty-nine years as Matron of the Dining Hall and Dean of Women. The photo archive documents an African American family, their friends, and life at Fisk University. In addition to professional studio portraits, a majority of the collection is gelatin silver developed-out prints taken by an amateur photographer. Ms. Jefferson or another family member actively documented family events, weddings, vacations, and theatrical performances. In 1939 Cecile Jefferson traveled to Hamilton, Bermuda. Glued into the brown post-bound album labeled “Photographs” are several postcards Cecile collected during her trip, including a photograph of the ship she sailed on, the "Queen of Bermuda." Her customs form provides the date of her birth, 1882, age, address, and return date from her trip on August 18, 1939. The photographs are part of an extensive paper archive that entered the library's collection after Ms. Jefferson's death. The Cecile B. Jefferson Collection was gifted to the library in 1971 from W.D. Hawkins, who was the cashier and comptroller at Fisk University.

About the Collection

The Fisk Photograph Collection 


The Fisk Photograph Collection includes images of Fisk Faculty, Staff, Students, Campus Buildings, sites around campus, Fisk Jubilee Singers, Fisk Board of Trustee Members past and present, campus activities, and other Fisk related scenes. The photographs are arranged by number and metadata for each photograph is created and entered into a searchable finding aid.  

  • 104 glass positives of Fisk buildings, Fisk students, landscapes, rural housing, and miscellaneous images​
  • Over 150 quality color transparency slides of Fisk and sites in Nashville, such as the historic Parthenon; Jefferson Street Project (of sites near Fisk University)​
  • 400 photographs by Harlem Renaissance photographer and benefactor Carl Van Vechten in the George Gershwin Memorial Collection ​
  • Over 11,000 Fisk-related images stored in our 3rd-floor Archive 


Original Fisk School Building, 1866

Using Photographs for Research


Fisk University Chapel

Special Collections Librarian

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Diona E. Layden
John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library
2nd Floor - Reading Room