Black lives mat­ter. So do black mem­o­ries, black com­mu­ni­ties and black day-to-day life. Per­haps an implic­it sense of this moti­vat­ed 11-year-old Lau­ra Fitz­patrick to keep a detailed pho­to diary of her life in 1930s and 40s Brook­lyn that his­to­ri­ans say is unprece­dent­ed.

Fitzpatrick’s scrap­book of 500 pho­tos dates from 1938 to 1948 and was shot in and around Williams­burg Brook­lyn at the height of black migra­tion from the South to the North. Fitz­patrick, whose fam­i­ly came from Alaba­ma when she was 10 years old, metic­u­lous­ly doc­u­ment­ed her com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing names and dates.

Fitzpatrick’s son Dan Evans recalled his mother’s pas­sion in an inter­view with CNN;

“She took a lot of por­traits of indi­vid­u­als and por­traits of fam­i­lies. But then some­times she would just catch peo­ple on the street. She lived in a ten­e­ment build­ing in the Williams­burg sec­tion of Brook­lyn, on a street called Broad­way, and they had a low roof. And she turned the rooftop into a pho­to stu­dio.… My moth­er took it as a per­son­al mis­sion to become the his­to­ri­an for this time peri­od because no one else had a cam­era.”

Fitz­patrick main­tained her habit of pho­tog­ra­phy her entire life, but nev­er as detailed as the decade she spent doc­u­ment­ing her life in Brook­lyn. Her pho­tos will appear at the Nation­al Muse­um of African Amer­i­can His­to­ry & Culture’s Every­day Beau­ty exhib­it.

16-year-old Lau­ra Fitz­patrick in Brook­lyn New York in the ear­ly 1940s
Lau­ra Fitzpatrick’s moth­er, Eliz­a­beth Fitz­patrick, stands at the right in this pho­to.

A friend of Fitzpatrick’s in front of a build­ing in River­side Park in Harlem.
Fitzpatrick’s friend, Lula, swims at Coney Island in 1945.
Fitzpatrick’s friends pose near a lamp shop.

Go to for more of Fitzpatrick’s incred­i­ble pho­to diary.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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6 Comments on "[Pics] 11-Year-Old Laura Fitzpatrick Kept a Detailed Photo Diary of Her Life… in 1938 Brooklyn"

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I shoot 35 mm film, and this is inspir­ing :)


I LOVE that this young sista had the vision to cap­ture us in our beau­ti­ful, every­day selves. It calls to mind the pics I curat­ed on my “Black, Vin­tage & Beau­ti­ful” board ( We were NOT down­trod­den as many would believe–in the midst of chal­lenges, we were/are STILL FABULOUS!


I wish more young peo­ple would do this TODAY. Con­trary to what we’re taught, each of us is unique and, as such, has a unique view on what life is like. Also, much of the cre­ative process is fed by sim­ple obser­va­tion. It has nev­er ceased to amaze me when peo­ple tell me, “I don’t know what to write about.” I’m always say­ing: “Look out­side your win­dow!”


Nice nos­tal­gic pic­tures!