(BBC) – At the turn of the 20th Century, life was incredibly difficult for the African-American community in the southern states of the US. But one self-taught photographer used his camera to challenge racial barriers and capture the diversity of the American South.

“I did not know my grandfather but I am very proud that he was able to capture these people in pictures – whether they were black or white, rich or poor, farmers or businessmen,” says Martha Sumler.

In an era that was marked by growing racial discrimination and the introduction of what were known as the “Jim Crow” segregation laws, a relatively unknown photographer, Hugh Mangum, did a rare thing – he opened his doors to everyone regardless of their race, gender or how much money they had.

Starting in the 1890s, Mangum, a self-taught itinerant photographer, travelled on the railroads across North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, setting up temporary studios and taking portraits of the people he met.


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