Three photograph albums containing 207 photographs and newspaper clippings, an assortment of 147 loose photographs, 3 school certificates, and an employment service certificate from Bassett Furniture, where Wray worked for 21 years.
Born and raised in Henry County, Virginia, Rosa Brown Wray (1934–2006) collected hundreds of photographs of her friends and family. The majority of the photos are labeled with the name, age, and hometown of those pictured. Many family surnames—including Hairston, Ross, Williams, Thomas, and Nolen—appear consistently throughout the collection. The majority of the newspaper clippings and other ephemeral items that Wray saved are related to school events in 1952, such as class valedictorians, school track meets, and news about classmates and friends.
Of special interest are 83 photographs that capture the daily life (1952–1953) of an African American soldier’s service during the Korean War. Wray’s brother Charles Brown Jr. is the subject of the photos, presumably showing his family in Virginia what life was like in Korea. Rather than action shots, however, these photos show Brown lounging, drinking Coca-Cola, barbering, playing guitar, and relaxing with fellow soldiers. The Korean War was the first in which the military desegregated its units, following President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 executive order requiring the military to end racial discrimination. Brown’s photographs reflect this, indicating a camaraderie between the black and white soldiers in his unit. The men posed for group photos, putting their arms … more
51 4 x 5-inch photographic cards
These photographs conform to the Kodak 1 camera’s distinctive 2.5-inch circular iris, and often capture those in the unidentified photographer’s entourage from a considerable distance, reducing them to delicate miniatures on hillsides or in sylvan glades. Tighter shots reveal happy-looking men and women in comfortably rumbled Victorian traveling clothes—apparently early enthusiasts of historic tourism. Other photos show an oxcart on the road to Petersburg, Grant’s headquarters at City Point (present-day Hopewell), Gen. William “Baldy” Smith’s headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg (referred to in the photo’s handwritten caption as “The Old Friend House”), a group luncheon on the grass of Petersburg’s famous “Crater,” St. John’s churchyard in Richmond, the State Capitol building, the bell tower and statues of Washington and Henry Clay (since removed) on the Capitol grounds. Also shown is a mothballed monitor-class gunship on the James, which, given the time and place the photo were taken, would have to be the Manhattan, Mahopac, or Tippecanoe.
Most of the photos have handwritten captions and are dated, with most taken on October 9, 1889.