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Thu, 08.10.1854

James C. Farley, Photographer born.

James C. Farley

*James C. Farley was born on this date in 1854. He was a Black photographer and proprietor.

James Conway Farley was born into slavery in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Both of his parents were also slaves. In 1861, he moved with his mother to Richmond, Virginia in 1861, where she worked as a store-room keeper at the Columbia Hotel, and he assisted in candle-making and learned to read. He later was apprenticed to the baker's trade but left and took work in the chemical department of the C. R. Rees photography company.

In May 1875, Farley became a photographer for G. W. Davis against the opposition of the other employees, all white. Davis supported Farley and discharged the others. The firm continued to have difficulty hiring white people, but Farley grew in skill and, in 1879, operated the gallery. Farley married Rebecca P. Robinson of Amelia County, Virginia, on December 10, 1876. They had five children. He was also a deacon in the First Baptist Church in Richmond. Farley's work was widely exhibited at the Colored Industrial Fair in Richmond in 1884, where he won first prize and the World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans in 1885.

He left the Davis Gallery in 1895 to start his Jefferson Fine Arts Gallery establishment. Farley was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Richmond Lodge No. 1. He was a delegate to the May 1902 Virginia Baptist State Convention, where he spoke in favor of black businesses. Farley was a Mechanics Savings Bank of Richmond board of directors member led by Richmond Planet editor John Mitchell, Jr. in the 1900s.

Several of Farley's photographs appeared in the Planet. Farley resided in Jersey City, New Jersey, when he died in 1910. Farley is the first Black to gain recognition as a photographer in America. Few of Farley's works survive; one remains in the Valentine Museum in Richmond.

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