Bank of America has donated 61 black and white photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of tennis champion Arthur Ashe, along with $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the museum announced Monday.
The images come from Daufuskie Island — one of South Carolina’s historic “Gullah” islands — which retained strong linguistic and cultural ties to its West African roots.
Taken between 1977 and 1981, they document the lives of 84 permanent residents who lived in 50 homes on the island, which had been inhabited by the descendants of freed slaves — in isolation — until the mid-1950s.
“In the Gullahs, you see people who know their connection to Africa,” said Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director. “Their language is shaped by what is African and what is American. In some ways, they are a wonderful example of cultural adaptation. [The photos] are a rich resource that allows us to capture Southern life in ways that are vanished.”
“Revisiting and exhibiting this work is about documenting Gullah culture in memoriam as part of American history and representing what can be lost in assimilation and development,” Moutoussamy-Ashe said in a statement.
The photos will be a cornerstone of the museum’s permanent collection.
The $500 million museum, financed by public and private funds, is under construction on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is scheduled to open in late 2015. About $90 million in private funds still must be raised.
Bank of America also contributed $1 million to the museum in 2006.