Mamie Griffin sits tall in her chair, her posture almost perfect, her head leaned slightly to the side. Her right arm is crossed over her left hand, holding up a copy of the book The Wife of Monte Cristo, her confident gaze looks straight through the image from 1914. In color, she comes even more to life in her green dress with crochet lace detailing, her book more obvious in bright hues.
This photo of Mamie Griffin, an African American cook in Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of a series of images that have been colorized by members of the Facebook group ‘Teach me to color’, where members help each other with colorizing old black and white photos. The original images in this series are black and white glass negatives that focus on African Americans in Lincoln from 1910-1925, during what was known as the New Negro Movement.
That movement, which gave African Americans the chance to speak for themselves, was happening across the US despite segregation and Jim Crow laws. The New Negro Movement was often focused on large cities, with portraits being taken in professional studios, but in Lincoln, African American photographer John Johnson was taking his photographs on people’s porches and inside their homes.