Worth looking at again:
If you click on this image, a new window will open and take you to its Flickr page. Once you get there (if you care to go) click on “all sizes” above the photo, and you’ll come to a place where you can look at it in very large and detailed format.
I found this photograph (and a lot of other very interesting images) in a book at the (online) Harvard library. If you care to have a look, here’s the info:
Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 1872-1906.
Candle-lightin’ time / by Paul Laurence Dunbar ; illustrated with photographs by the Hampton Institute Camera Club and decorations by Margaret Armstrong.
New York : Dodd, Mead, 1908.
access to page images of entire work
It’s an odd and somewhat disturbing book. I’d have to spend a lot of time with it to come to any conclusions, but for the moment, let’s just look at this photograph.
There are a lot of historical works (fiction and non-fiction) about African-Americans who enlisted in the Civil War, that I’m not very familiar with. I only have vague memories from the film Glory (which I believe was pretty accurate) so for now I’m just trying to imagine myself standing near by as this young man posed.
Was his mother standing there? His whole extended family? I wonder if he lived in the house behind him, what his name was and what kind of work he did before he enlisted. I don’t know anything about uniforms of the time, but a little research would probably provide a lot of information.
Most of all I wonder what is going through his head.
It would take a lot of research (given how little I know about his place and time) to write about him, but it strikes me as an interesting project.