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Thu, 09.21.1820

Augustus Washington, Photographer born

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*Augustus Washington’s birth in 1820 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black abolitionist and photographer specializing as a Daguerreotypist.

From Trenton, New Jersey he was the son of a former African slave and an Asian woman. His mother died when he was young a stepmother, also a former African slave raised him. Washington struggled to obtain schooling, first in Trenton.  He later attended the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and Dartmouth College. In 1843, Washington moved to Hartford and opened a daguerrean studio to help finance education. Finishing School in 1847, he returned to Hartford and opened a studio for a short period of time. During this time many of his portraits were of political and social figures of the era and reflected his sentiment about American slavery.

In 1851, in a letter to New York Tribune he expressed pessimism about prospects of Blacks in American society.  In 1853, he immigrated to Liberia to work as schoolteacher, farmer stone operator and Daguerreotypist. One year later in a letter, he expressed enthusiasm about his adopted land, stating that, "I believe that I shall do a thousand times more good for Africa." The last reference to Washington's work as a daguerreotypist dates from 1858.

Washington never regretted his decision to immigrate to Liberia, and when he died in Monrovia on June 7, 1875, his death was mourned as “a severe loss to Western Africa.”

National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
Victor Building–Suite 8300 MRC 973
Washington, DC 20013-7012

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