Lawton_A new exhibit at the Museum of the Great Plains is celebrating Black History Month in Lawton-Fort Sill. "Composed Portraits, Defining African-American Citizenship" features photographs from the early 1900s. The museum Curator believes the photos were taken in Lawton and feature Lawtonians of the time. However, the photos are a mystery - no one knows who those in the pictures really are.
About thirty years ago a Lawton couple found some dusty old boxes in their attic. Upon further inspection, they found many glass plate negatives, and research at the courthouse revealed the owner of the negatives to be Ogle H. McCoy - a Lawton photographer. The photographer no longer lives in Lawton, so there's no way of knowing who the special people honored in the exhibit are.
Many of the photos remain undated and unnamed. But, each picture chosen shows a struggle that has contributed to America's growth as a nation and honors Black History Month.
Dr. Sarah Janda was asked to contribute to the narrative of the exhibit. She says there were thousands of the negatives, and it took time to select the right ones. But the hardest part, she says, was writing captions about individuals that no one knew anything about. "It's challenging because we don't know anything about the people in the photos," she says. "We roughly know when the photos were taken...you don't want to speculate too much."
Those who walk through the exhibit say it's hard to choose a favorite. Albert Johnson says they're all great, he came because he says it's important for people to learn about this transformation. "We have been here since the beginning of America," says Johnson. "At one time we were not a part of history - but, now we are." He says he's thrilled to hear the exhibit will be on display for the next two months.
Janda says these photographs represent the hopes and dreams of those whose every day life was a fight. During the 1920s, rigid segregation was part of day to day life in Lawton, as all over the US. These photos and this exhibit have found a way to create a historical record of the African American effort to become recognized as equal citizens in America, and honored for instrumental contributions that have shaped our country.