Vernacular War Photography
Vernacular photography refers to photos that focus on everyday life and people and makes the ordinary and familiar matter.
In the case of African American servicemen, vernacular photography visually turned the uniformed soldier into both an everyday-man and first-class citizen. Photographs of Black men standing strong and dressed in military uniform showed them as loyal and patriotic, but most importantly, as American citizens.
Atop mantels, tucked in wallets, carried in purses, and placed inside newspapers, the image of the Black uniformed soldier challenged the viewer’s understanding of the nation as white. Visually, it linked Black manhood to American nationhood and affirmed the soldier’s national belonging and freedom to project that self to the rest of the world.
At left: Vernacular photography of uniformed soldiers also mobilized Black families and communities. Here are images from both World Wars. Particularly, during WWII, the images provided African Americans with visual symbols that aided in the Double V Campaign, rallying Black people to fight for victories abroad against fascism and at home against U.S. racism.
Note: African American Real PostCard Collection is very ecclectic. The Postcards are not just the war years. Johns Hopkins Special Collections has scanned the entire African American Real Postcard collection making it available to everyone.