[LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, RACIAL INTEGRATION, RELIGIOUS HISTORY]. A RARE, MUSEUM QUALITY IMAGE OF THE DOUGLASS TEMPLE IN LOS ANGELES, CA 1919. On offer here is an EXCEPTIONAL photograph of the Douglass Temple in Los Angeles, California on March 23, 1919. The photo is taken outside the Temple building (on Lenard Street) where some roughly 140 individual parishioners are posed for the image. The'Douglass Temple of Universal Brotherhood of Spiritualists' was an off shoot of traditional Protestant religion which adopted some aspects of Freemasonry, astrology, mysticism and Freethought which although appealing to some Angelenos, placed them firmly outside of the religious mainstream of the time.
This caused friction in the religious community and ultimately the downfall of the church in the coming years. The silver gelatin photo measures 11 in x 14 in mounted in a frame measuring 16.75 in x 20 in. The photo and frame are in excellent condition with no obvious damage or issues. Although the photography studio is not yet known, we believe it may be possible to determine the photographer based on the image file number and the scratch notation style on the lower left of the image.
Also included with this group image are two large crayon portraits of both George Shields and his wife Elizabeth Shields. We're certain both these images were taken prior to their arriving in Los Angeles. What immediately strikes the observer about this image is how racially integrated and evenly composed the Temple members are in this 1919 image. A mere 6 months from the date of this photo, race riots would take place all over the nation (aka' The Red Summer') and the likelihood of this image taking place wouldn't be likely or perhaps possible for several decades. At the image center we see seated an older African American couple who are the Reverend George Shields and his wife Elizabeth.
George Shields was a New Orleans native who relocated to Los Angeles in 1901 when he became a minister for two Baptist churches prior to founding the Douglass Temple of Universal Brotherhood about 1916. About the time of this photograph, the Los Angeles Times reported the Douglass Temple had' about 200 devout members' and' more than 500 adherents'.
The mix of Spiritualist doctrine with Freemasonic practice appealed to these early Angelenos who were seeking fulfillment outside of the traditional religious dicta of the day. This image represents the hopeful possibility that racial harmony is achievable if allowed to flourish outside of external social pressures offering false choices. The promise of this image which wouldn't be more fully realized for many years afterward, is rare to have captured in a photograph such as this.As students and scholars of historical photography well know, integrated, group images such as this are rare and are generally only found in circumstances where there is forced (or coerced) labor, some forms of limited military service, slavery era' nanny and charge' images, some very early schools with one or two African-Americans, etc. An image such as this where the subjects are socially together by choice , is indeed rare and worthy of taking notice. In the course of researching this image, we became aware of Dr. Sharon Hartman Strom, a University of Rhode Island History professor who authored a paper this past summer which featured the Douglass Temple and the Shields as a primary subject. Strom's article entitled' Spiritualist Angels, Masonic Stars and the Douglass Temple of Universal Brotherhood' California History , Vol. 2 -26 is an essential read for collectors or institutions wanting a more complete understanding of the historical perspective surrounding this image.
We borrowed critical biographical data and historical perspective from her work to fill gaps in our own research. Images such as this are indeed rare and worthy of acquisition.We invite any comments or questions by those who are as intrigued by this image as we are. The item "1919 RARE PHOTO BLACK AFRICAN AMERICAN RACIAL INTEGRATION LA, CALIFORNIA CHURCH" is in sale since Tuesday, March 19, 2019. This item is in the category "Collectibles\Photographic Images\Vintage & Antique (Pre-1940)\Other Antique Photographs".
The seller is "bibliomonster" and is located in Beverly Hills, California. This item can be shipped to North, South, or Latin America, all countries in Europe, China, Japan, Australia.