Finding photos in unlikely places

(this article is cross-posted to NOLA History Guy)

finding photos

Carver House Terrace Restaurant at Lincoln Beach, New Orleans, 1956 (courtesy NOLA.com)

Finding photos in unlikely places – it’s fun!

Checking our Facebook group, “Ain’t There No More” (the title is an homage to a popular New Orleans song) this morning, I saw Todd Price of NOLA.com posted another of his “lost restaurant” articles. Todd’s one of the food-and-drink writers for the Times-Picayune newspaper. You’ll see me refer to the T-P as “Da Paper” occasionally. Da Paper has an extensive photo database. Todd makes wonderful use of it. Not really sure how he gets his job done, some days. One day, I’ll get Da Paper to hire me in some capacity. Then, access to all those images and articles is mine! 🙂

Most of Todd’s old restaurant photos engage readers, However, today’s article had a neat find. The photo up top is Carver House Terrace Restaurant. This was the “nice” place at Lincoln Beach, the old Jim Crow amusement park. Here’s Todd’s caption:

CARVER HOUSE TERRACE
The restaurant was part of Lincoln Beach, the lakefront amusement for black New Orleanians. When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the previously whites-only amusement park Pontchartrain Beach was integrated. Lincoln Beach closed that same year. (1956 photo)

This is a particularly nice find, because it’s hard to come up with good photos of Lincoln Beach. Since it was the segregated park. Therefore, you didn’t have photo-bug white folks with disposable income walking around, like one would see at Pontchartrain Beach, the whites-only amusement park. Newspaper reporters didn’t go out there as much for slice-of-life segments, or people-having-fun stories. Most of the photos that are easily viewed are from after it closed, or of musicians and other entertainment acts that played to the African-American audience.

Be creative when you search

That doesn’t mean photos of Lincoln Beach don’t exist. It’s a question of refining search fields and digging in the right offline collections. In this case, Todd found Carver House in Da Paper’s restaurant files. It’s likely that the photo wasn’t tagged with a keyword for the park.

Jim Crow-era research is problematic in general, because so many of the “separate but equal” facilities were anything but. So, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, those facilities were rendered redundant. White-only facilities were far better, so black folks integrated into those. The other big problem is that Jim Crow-style segregation was outlawed 53 years ago. This photo of Carver House is from 1956. It’s over 60 years old. While archivists will save everything they get their hands on, government agencies were quick to box up segregation and put it on the shelf. Sometimes the “shelf” was the dumpster out back.

Finding photos on African-American subjects

Researching Jim Crow-era subjects? Your best bet for finding photos is family photo collections. Maybe grandpa and grandma saw Fats Domino out there. Possibly they ate at Carver House. So, ask around. Somebody’s got a box of old photos in the attic.

Go dig around!

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