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Day 11 – Augustus Washington, Black Daguerreotypist

Day 11 – Meet Augustus Washington, one of America’s first black photographers and Daguerreotypist.

Augsutus Washington was born in 1820 in Trenton, New Jersey in 1820 to a Black father and Asian mother.  As a young man, he wanted to attend college but lacked the financial resources and decided to try his hand at the new art of daguerreotype photography.

He went on to attend Dartmouth College and within about 5 years, became a portrait photographer and owner of one of the most successful studios in Hartford, Connecticut.  While he found great success in his trade, by the 1850’s Augustus realized the inevitable future as a black man in America.

Strange as it may appear, whatever may be a colored man’s natural capacity and literary attainments, I believe that, as soon as he leaves the academic halls to mingle in the only society he can find in the United States, unless he be a minister or lecturer, he must and will retrograde.
–Augustus Washington, letter to the New York Tribune, 1851

By November 1853, Augustus with his wife and two children, decided to emigrate to Liberia where he set up a daguerreotype studio in Monrovia.  In his new surroundings, he prospered greatly having not only found success on photography with the opening of several studios, but Augustus also became a landlord, newspaper editor, planter, and politician.

On any possibility of him returning to America, Augustus said “Nothing could induce him to return to this country [America], having acquired a handsome property and freedom and a home in his ancestral land.”

Remember Augustus Washington.





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