This summer, Ruby Falls will host a public exhibition showcasing the remarkable life and contributions of the first African American to open a professional photography studio in Chattanooga.
“Through the Lens: The Life and Legacy of Horace Brazelton” tells the story of Horace Brazelton, a trailblazing business owner + prominent civic leader during the first half of the 20th century. Horace had a prolific, award-winning career photographing middle-class Black communities in Chattanooga and across the region at a time when access to photography was limited.
In addition to his successful business efforts, Horace was also an active civic leader who worked towards empowering the Black community amid Jim Crow laws in the South. Notably, Horace supported Black Chattanoogans’ economic mobility + the growth of commerce in the Black business district of East 9th Street — now known as MLK Boulevard.
The exhibit was curated by historian Stefanie Haire, who extensively researched Horace’s legacy for several years. Stefanie partnered with several organizations for her research including Picnooga (Chattanooga Historical Society) + received contributions from the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, Chattanooga Public Library, River City Co.
The exhibit will feature a re-creation of Horace’s photography studio, a portrait gallery featuring his work, early 20th-century photo-enlarging equipment + audio from the 1917 speech Horace Brazelton gave at the annual conference of the 18th Annual Session of the National Negro Business League held in Chattanooga.
“These photos capture more than just simple moments in time, but rather represent hundreds of lives who helped build Chattanooga, and the memory of their legacies.” — Stefanie Haire
The exhibit opens to the public with free admission on Wednesday, June 7, and will be available to view through Friday, Sept. 15. Note: tickets to Ruby Falls are not required to view the exhibit.