North Carolina College for Negroes Class of 1923-24. Photo courtesy of NCCU. 

North Carolina Central University officials announced that the campus will host two events this week to celebrate the historically Black university’s photo archives.

On Thursday afternoon, NC Central will kick off the implementation of a Getty Images grant that will allow the school to digitize and preserve rare imagery from its archival photographic library, according to a university press release.

On Friday morning, university and state officials, along with community members and students will gather at NCCU’s James E. Shepard Memorial Library for a virtual panel discussion to commemorate the Juneteenth celebration of emancipation from slavery. 

In January the school announced it was one of four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country selected to receive a Getty Images Photo Archive Grant for HBCUs.

The grant program “is part of Getty Images’ commitment to anti-racism, inclusion, and dismantling discrimination, including bringing to market unseen historical content and creating revenue streams for organizations working to build a more inclusive society,” NCCU officials explained in the release.

“This year’s program will support the digitization of up to 200,000 archival photos from the grant recipients,” which also includes Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, according to Getty Images.

Officials from Getty Images will be on NCCU’s campus Thursday to work side by side with school officials during the digitization process.  

NCCU marketing and communications director Quiana Shepard said officials from Getty Images, EPSON, and AdNet Global, a post-production agency that specializes in the digitization, restoration, and discoverability of visual analog historic libraries in the photo digitization process, will be on campus Thursday “to set up the equipment that will be used to digitize our archive collection for the Getty website collection and teach staff and students how to operate it.”

It’s a huge, culturally significant partnership.

In addition to the grainy photo of the proud, erect students who were members of the school’s 1923-1924 graduating class that embodies the “New Negro” catchword popular during that period, funding from the grant will support the digitization of archival photographs from NCCU’s library, “including stories of Black Wall Street in Durham, and the school’s sports history, as well as images of historical figures visiting the campus” such as the famed novelist and folklorist Zora Neal Hurston, pastor and politician Adam Clayton Powell, historian and author John Hope Franklin, and Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

In a word, campus officials are elated.

“North Carolina Central University’s rich history, vibrant culture and steady growth over the past 111 years have been captured through images. The generous investment by Getty Images will offer new, technologically enhanced and advanced ways in which we, as a leading Historically Black University, can further tell our story,” NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said in January. 

Akinleye said that the university’s “strategic partnership with the world’s largest visual storytelling and preservation company will strengthen and elevate the importance of digitizing our important photographic collections that document the history of NCCU and other HBCUs that are institutional gems to our nation. 

“The collaboration also trains the next generation of librarians, archivists and public historians who will work with these priceless collections,” he added.

The photos will launch on as part of its “Historically Black Colleges and Universities Collection ” and will add thousands more photos throughout the year.

NCCU archivists and librarians will work alongside Getty Images’ archivists and Adnet Global.  

“The Getty Images Photo Archive Grants for HBCUs were created to honor the vast history of HBCUs and their contribution to American history,” said Cassandra Illidge, vice-president of partnerships with Getty Images. “We are committed to preserving the visual narrative of all cultures and communities to ensure these vital artifacts are accessible to storytellers around the world.”

One of the grant judges, Deborah Willis, who is academic director, professor, and chair at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, said the Getty Images photo archive grants “is an essential part of the on‑going documentation and preservation of Black images at HBCUs.” 

NCCU officials said the school will retain copyright of its photos. Getty Images, in a statement, also noted that the original photos will be returned to the HBCUs after scanning, along with the newly digitized photos. Getty Images will represent the digitized photos, providing a new revenue source for the HBCU Grant recipients.  

University officials added that 50 percent of the revenue generated from the images that are preserved through the grants will be funneled back to grant recipients, while 30 percent “will be used for a financial donation to a scholarship fund focused on furthering the education of students at HBCUs,” with 20 percent earmarked for reinvestment to fund the grants each year.

Friday’s panel discussion, titled “Reframing Black Identity Through Photography – African American Photographers and Their Works,” will “explore the role of HBCUs in documenting the history and culture of the African American experience,” according to a university statement.

The panelists “will highlight the politics of representation and omission, and the role of African American photographers in shaping the cultural landscape.” 

The discussion will be moderated by Andre Vann, the coordinator of NCCU’s university archives and historian. The panel participants include Tracey Burns who is deputy secretary of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion with the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; Phyllis Coley, founder and publisher of Spectacular Magazine, and host of Durham’s annual Juneteenth Celebration; Glenn Harris, an associate professor of history at UNC-Wilmington; and NCCU student and photography entrepreneur Cleo Ellyce Cotten.

For more information about the NCCU photo archive grant, click here

To join NCCU’s Juneteenth discussion, click here. 

Correction: The announcement that NCCU would be a recipient of the Getty Images Photo Archive Grant came in January, not June. 

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