Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Series of Good Works: The Photographic Legacy of Reverend Lonzie Odie Taylor

This thesis addresses the life and photographic legacy of early 20th century African American photographer, Reverend Lonzie Odie Taylor. I argue the self-taught photographer and Baptist minister’s work helped shape narratives of self-definition in Memphis’ Black community in the 1930s and 1940s. Taylor’s images are grounded in his ideals and aspirations, highlighting themes of dignity, pride, and emancipation that counteract hegemonic stereotypes of Black communities promoted by outsiders in the Jim Crow South. This, I argue, reflects the construction of a productive new social imaginary, a concept borrowed from Charles Taylor. I conclude by arguing that, while many of L.O. Taylor’s contemporaries were championing the visualization of the “New Negro,” his position as photographer and minister provided him a unique opportunity to guide his community both spiritually and visually to aspire to self-determination, social mobility, and material success in a rapidly modernizing context.