The pictures were first published in 1989 in his book “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.” Some of the most well-known Black women in the world are captured by Lanker in all their vulnerabilities – in his collection.
Images of legendary Black women like Maya Angelou, Septima Poinsette Clark, Barbara Jordan, Rosa Parks, and Leontyne Price can be found in the full photo collection. The book’s cover features Poinsette Clark, whose photograph has long been one of the most cherished in the collection, Yahoo News notes.
Lena Horne, a glamorous performer who captivated audiences from the 1930s to the 1980s, is also among them. Horne is depicted by Lanker as sitting and donning a straightforward black outfit. There is also a 1988 photograph of well-known actress Cicely Tyson, who is shown wearing a floral crown; gazing longingly into the distance. Althea Gibson, an American tennis player, Odetta, a singer, and Oprah Winfrey, “The Queen of Talk Shows”, are some additional topics.
According to Black Enterprise, the volume was released more than three decades ago by the Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer, who documented Black women’s timeless beauty and authenticity. They were shown in his work as being fearless and unafraid.
In his book, Lanker stated, “I felt the need to prevent these historical lives from being forgotten. Many of the women opened ‘the doors,’ and many advanced America through the modern civil rights and women’s movement.”
During such depressing times, Ann M. Shumard, senior curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, noted that “It was a wonderful, inspiring project to work on.” The National Portrait Gallery purchased the entire collection in 2020. “We are delighted that these extraordinary portraits have joined the museum’s collection and will now be featured in this exhibition,” added Shumard, during an interview with The Smithsonian Magazine.
In July 2022, the first episode of the series debuted, and it ran until January 2023. There are 75 portraits in the book, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is currently showing a few of them through September 10. On the Smithsonian’s second floor, the images in black and white are on display. Near the “One Life: Frederick Douglass” exhibition are additional images highlighting the rich lives of Black people.