About the Digital Collection
Frank Espada (b. 1930) began photographing Puerto Rican immigrants in the U.S. in the late 1950s. From 1979 to 1981, with support from a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he focused his creative energies on documenting Puerto Rican communities and their struggle to survive and thrive in America. In his photographic survey of the Puerto Rican diaspora, Espada visited over thirty four communities across the United States and its territories. Photographs from this project have been exhibited across the country and eventually led to the publication of The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People in 2006.
The Frank Espada Photographs digital collection provides online access to a small portion (25 photographs) of Espada's larger The Puerto Rican Diaspora project, specifically focusing on rural migration in Hawaii and Pennsylvania, and urban migration in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut. The remainder of the photographs and papers that preserve the stories of the communities he visited are available for research and study in the Frank Espada Photographs and Papers, 1946-2010, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. This archival collection of over 16,000 items joins the Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts’ growing collections of Latin American and Caribbean materials, including the work of photographers James Karales and Mel Rosenthal, both of whom documented Puerto Rican communities in New York City during the 1960s and 1980s.
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This digital collection comprises selected materials from the following archival collection at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:
Frank Espada photographs and papers 1946-2010, bulk 1964-2000
Collection #RL.00367 | 56.2 Linear Feet; 76 boxes; 3 oversize folders
Frank Espada was a political activist and documentary photographer of Puerto Rican extraction based in New York and California. His photographic archives comprise thousands of black-and-white photographs and negatives and related materials concerning Espada's lifelong work documenting the Puerto Rican diaspora, civil and economic rights movements, indigenous Chamorro communities in Micronesia, and HIV/AIDS outreach in San Francisco. The Puerto Rican Diaspora project also includes over 150 oral history recordings. The Civil Rights series documents voter registration and school desegregation rallies in New York City, 1964-1970, as well as housing and anti-poverty movements, primarily in California. Photographic subjects encompass Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and indigenous peoples, as well as whites and racially mixed people. The professional papers include files related to activism, research and writings, exhibits, teaching, and publicity. The earliest dated item is a 1946 essay by Espada, "What democracy means to me." Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.