Through the Lens: Life and Legacy of Horace Brazelton

Through the Lens: Life and Legacy of Horace Brazelton

Horace Brazelton (1877-1956) was the first African American to open a professional photography studio in Chattanooga. A trailblazing business owner and prominent civic leader, Brazelton actively worked toward empowering the Black community amidst Jim Crow laws in the South.

As the first African American to open a professional photography studio in Chattanooga, Brazelton’s prolific career photographing middle-class Black communities across the region spanned the first half of the 20th century, 1904 to 1956. His work embodied the humanity of the people he depicted, with his camera lens documenting Black families and individuals, as well as Black church, professional and civic groups, at a time when access to photography was limited, and mass media frequently portrayed African Americans unfavorably and inaccurately.

Along with building a successful business, the nationally recognized, award-winning portrait photographer was active with considerable endeavors as a community leader. By championing home and property ownership, voter participation, economic and small business development, and recognition of Black history, Brazelton actively encouraged and invested in Black Chattanoogans during the era of Jim Crow laws in the South. His efforts supported the growth of commerce in the Black business district of East 9th Street (currently known as MLK Blvd) and Black Chattanoogans’ economic mobility.

Please be advised, the presentation contains historical accounts and media from the Jim Crow period of American history to the modern civil rights movement depicting racism towards the Black community.

Horace Brazelton Exhibit Event Highlights Include:

  • Opening Reception March 16!
  • Make your own portrait in a re-creation of Brazelton’s professional photography studio
  • Explore the gallery of Brazelton Studio Portraits
  • View early 20th century photo enlarging equipment on display

The exhibit includes photography throughout Mr. Brazelton’s career and historical context which powerfully connect the viewer to this pivotal era.

🔉Listen to a reading of the 1917 speech Horace Brazelton gave at the annual conference of the 18th Annual Session of the National Negro Business League held in Chattanooga.

Thank you to all the organizations who have helped shape this exhibition, including Picnooga/Chattanooga Historical Society, RISE Chattanooga, Ruby Falls, and MTSU Center for Historic Preservation.

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If you and your little ones attend our 0-5 programming, we want to hear abour you experience!

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