Frank Espada photographs and papers, 1946-2010, bulk 1964-2000

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Collection is open for research. Original audiovisual media may need to be reformatted before use. Oral histories on cassettes have been digitized and are available upon request. Please contact...
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Summary

Creator:
Espada, Frank, 1930- and Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University)
Abstract:
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.
Extent:
56.2 Linear Feet (76 boxes; 3 oversize folders)
Language:
Materials in English; a few items are in Spanish or are bilingual.
Collection ID:
RL.00367

Background

Scope and content:

Frank Espada's photographic archives comprise thousands of photographic prints, contact sheets, and negatives, as well as professional papers, spanning the length of Frank Espada's career as a photographer and community activist from the mid-1950s through 2010. The materials document the Puerto Rican diaspora; indigenous Chamorro communities in Micronesia, primarily in Guam, Tinian, and Saipan; drug abuse prevention programs and HIV/AIDS outreach in San Francisco; and civil rights, education, and anti-poverty and housing rights movements, primarily in New York City and San Francisco. Photographic subjects include Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and indigenous peoples, as well as whites and racially mixed people.

A large series of professional papers provides supporting documentation of his life and work as a photographer, activist, community organizer, and teacher. The earliest dated item, an essay Espada wrote in 1946, "What democracy means to me," is found in this series, which contains files on Espada's activism; research topics; photography and exhibits; a few videocassettes; syllabi and notes from his photography courses at U.C. Berkeley; awards and memorabilia; and publicity.

The largest body of materials, which numbers over 12,000 items and includes photographs as well as manuscripts and over 100 recorded oral interviews (digitized use copies available), derives from Espada's grant-funded work documenting Puerto Rican communities across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, 1979-1981.

Another significant group of materials derives from Espada's activism on behalf of voter registration and school desegregation in New York City from 1962-1970, and later in California in support of anti-poverty, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse prevention and outreach, and housing rights.

Each of the photographic project series includes finished prints ranging in size from 8x10 to 24x30 inches; contact sheets and work prints; and negatives, which are housed in a separate series and are closed to use.

Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Biographical / historical:

Frank Espada (1930-2014) was an American photojournalist, photographer, activist, educator, and community organizer. He was born December 21, 1930 in Utuado, Puerto Rico as Francisco Luis Espada Roig. His family emigrated to New York City in 1939. He attended City College of New York but cut his studies short to join the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Espada married his wife, Marilyn, in 1952; together they raised two boys and one girl - Jason, Lisa, and Martín. After the war, Espada attended The New York Institute of Photography in New York City, where his mentors were W. Eugene Smith and Dave Heath. To support his family, he worked as an electrical contractor for ten years.

Galvanized by social and economic inequities he witnessed in the late 1950s, Espada began working as a community organizer in New York City's most vulnerable and impoverished areas, and organized strikes against unfair rent increases, voter registration drives, sit-ins of welfare recipients and mothers, public school boycotts, and marches for civil and political rights. In 1979, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to document Puerto Rican communities in the U.S. as well as those who returned to Puerto Rico. From 1990 to 1992, he undertook the Chamorro Documentary Project, documenting indigenous peoples' lives in Micronesia.

In 1985, he and his family moved to San Francisco, where he continued his activism, chiefly related to housing rights, the eradication of poverty, and education reform; he also worked with Mid-City Coalition for HIV Prevention in San Francisco to document and improve AIDS outreach. He became a photography teacher for the University of California, Berkeley, Extension Program, and taught photography at the Academy of Art University and the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2006, he published The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, and in 2008, received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Lehman College, Bronx, New York.

Frank Espada died in New York City, February 16, 2014, at the age of 83. His documentary photographs have been exhibited around the world at the Museum of Art in Chicago; Museo del Barrio, New York City; Honolulu Hale; the Museo de Arte in Ponce, Puerto Rico; and Duke University's Rubenstein Library, among others.

Acquisition information:
The Frank Espada photographs and papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase from 2010-2013.
Processing information:

Originally processed and encoded in 2011 and 2013 by Meghan Lyon, Levi Crews, and Paula Jeannet.

Additional rehousing and description performed in 2017-2018 by Paula Jeannet, Brigitte Cao, Edward Coles, Leslie Hayes, Robin Klaus, and Alanna Styer.

Accessions described in this collection: 2010-0230, 2011-0037, and 2013-0150.

Arrangement:

The collection is arranged by project series followed by other formats and papers: Chamorro Documentary Project; Civil Rights and Community Activism; HIV/AIDS Projects; Puerto Rican Diaspora; Other Work; Negatives; Papers; and Audiovisual Recordings.

Physical facet:
approximately 14,500 items
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Contents

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Restrictions:

Collection is open for research.

Original audiovisual media may need to be reformatted before use. Oral histories on cassettes have been digitized and are available upon request.

Please contact the Rubenstein Library before coming to use this collection.

Terms of access:

http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/

Materials in this collection are made available for research, scholarship, and private study. Duke University holds an interest in the copyright and can license uses in some circumstances. For reuses of these materials item beyond those permitted by fair use or otherwise allowed under the Copyright Act, please consult https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/research/citations-and-permissions

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Frank Espada Photographs and Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.