This photograph of an African American woman with an open book was taken in Berea, Kentucky–home to Berea College and the Doris Ulmann Galleries. Doris Ulmann’s portraits of Appalachian people were close to her heart, having spent much of her later life in Appalachia. Doris Ulmann was a woman who valued people of all backgrounds, a view similar to Berea College’s Great Commitments. Berea College was founded on the motto that “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth,” a message that resonated with Doris Ulmann’s background at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, people of all ethnic backgrounds and financial situations were held in the same regard. Ulmann took this to heart, and upon arriving in Appalachia saw not just a hardworking people, but people whose lives told stories worth telling. In this photograph, Ulmann captured Berea College’s mission by highlighting an educated African American woman when most other institutions did not even recognize them as worthy to attend. In her photographs of people in and around Berea, Doris Ulmann was able to show the world the dignity of people who were often left voiceless. After her death, the Doris Ulmann negatives were left to a foundation that her will started. The negatives were housed by Columbia University for some time, but currently reside in the University of Oregon Special Collections. Berea College was left over 3,100 of her silver gelatin prints. More of Doris Ulmann’s Appalachian photographs can be found here.
-Constantine Botimer, Class of 2019