Portraits in black history photo
photo
[Photo courtesy of Tampa Hillsborough County Public Library System]
Secured in a vault at the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa are thousands of photographic negatives depicting life on Florida's west coast at the height of segregation.

They were taken by commercial photography studio founded in Tampa in 1899 by Samuel Burgert and his son Willard ("William" in some records). By 1918, the studio was firmly established with brothers Jean and Al Burgert at the helm. It operated until 1963.

The Burgerts were white and likely subscribed to the racial stereotypes that prevailed in the early 1900s, said Jack B. Moore, co-author of the 1992 book Pioneer Commercial Photography: The Burgert Brothers. Still, the photographers produced a varied record of African-American life, capturing the elite as well as everyday people on their jobs, in churches, at social gatherings and day care centers, at weddings and schools.

In an occasional series, the Times will travel with the Burgert photos from the days of Jim Crow until now, looking in on figures in black life and the imprints they made on our community today.


About the series
The photographs in this series were made in the middle of the last century by the Burgert Brothers commercial photography studio in Tampa, which operated until 1963. The Burgerts were white, but their photographs provide a varied record of African-American life during the days of segregation.

These articles travel with the Burgert photos from the days of Jim Crow until now, looking in on figures in black life and the imprints they made on our community.

Music in the storm
Love of the violin helped buoy a young black man buffeted by ill winds in the segregated South. [11/19/02]

Beauty endures
In the 1950s, a high school cosmetology class was a stepping stone to greater things. Styles may change, but traditions do not. [11/26/02]

St. James and Mr. Monroe
Herman Monroe spent years researching the history of Tampa's black Episcopal church. In doing so, he discovered some of his own heritage. [12/6/02]

Beyond racial boundaries
G.D. Rogers Sr. had businesses, homes and land -- along with a heart for his community. He didn't wait for an invitation to get involved in civic affairs. [1/10/03]

Related links:
Burgert Brothers Photographic Archives

The Deuces: Multimedia Report

A month to remember