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Finding Aid to the David Johnson Photograph Archive
BANC PIC 2017.001  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Separated Materials

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
    Title: David Johnson photograph archive
    Creator: Johnson, David
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 2017.001
    Physical Description: 5000 photographs in 21 boxes and 1 oversize folder : chiefly film negatives, gelatin silver prints and film transparencies ; sheets various sizes
    Date (bulk): approximately 1940-2015, bulk 1945-1965
    Abstract: Rich representation of the African American community in San Francisco, particularly the Fillmore District, from the post-World War II era to the Civil Rights movement.
    Physical Location: Many Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Collection is open for research. Digital exhibition prints and their accompanying originals are restricted. Negatives and slides are available by appointment only. See library's online catalog record for details.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Copyright for material created by David Johnson has been assigned to the University of California Regents, managed by The Bancroft Library. In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted to The Bancroft Library. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The David Johnson Photograph Archive was purchased by The Bancroft Library from David Johnson in 2016.


    David Johnson was born August 3, 1926 in Jacksonville, Florida. He acquired his first camera at age 14 and soon thereafter aspired to be a professional photographer. Drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1944, he served in the Philippines for the remainder of World War II. Prior to his time in the Pacific Islands, Johnson was stationed in San Francisco and developed an intense attraction to the city. After the war, Johnson departed Florida upon his acceptance into Ansel Adams’ first class in the new Department of Photography at San Francisco’s California School of Fine Arts, becoming the master photographer’s first African American student. Johnson lived briefly with Adams, and was mentored by Minor White, another teacher at the school. After moving to the African American neighborhood of San Francisco’s Fillmore District, Johnson was encouraged by Adams and White to document his local community. In the early 1950s Johnson established a photography studio on Fillmore Street. For the next two decades he developed a body of work strongly influenced by the people and events of his community and the broader social and political issues of his times, including much portraiture and documentation of demonstrations, concerts, political campaigns, streets scenes and other aspects of San Francisco’s African American community and the local and national civil rights struggles of the era. In the early 2000s Johnson’s work from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s began to be revived and exhibited in various local venues, with much critical and popular success. The City of San Francisco honored Johnson’s contribution to the cultural heritage of his community by including his name among those engraved in Gene Suttle Plaza on Fillmore Street. Johnson’s memoir, A Dream Begun So Long Ago, was written by his second wife, Jacqueline Annette Sue, and published in 2012.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], David Johnson photograph archive, BANC PIC 2017.001, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Chris McDonald and Marisol Trejos.

    Scope and Content

    Rich representation of the African American community in San Francisco, particularly the Fillmore District, from the post-World War II era to the Civil Rights movement. The collection consists of both professional studio portraits and informal depictions of individuals and groups. While the vast majority of the subjects are everyday people, a small number of chiefly candid images depict noteworthy figures such as Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois, Nat King Cole, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, Eartha Kitt, Roland Hayes and Willie Brown. Also present is documentation of demonstrations, concerts, parties and other social and political gatherings; street scenes and other views taken in public spaces; and a small assortment of still lifes, landscapes, nudes and other subjects. Personal materials are also included: photographs of Johnson, his family, friends and associates; correspondence, business records, clippings, ephemera and miscellaneous papers pertaining to Johnson’s photography; and other papers.

    Separated Materials

    5 optical discs containing digital images by David Johnson, and 1 disc on the work of San Francisco photographer Charles Wong, transferred to the Digital Collections Unit of The Bancroft Library (BANC DIG 2018.005).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    African Americans -- California -- San Francisco -- Photographs
    Civil rights demonstrations -- California -- San Francisco -- Photographs
    Fillmore (San Francisco, Calif.) -- Photographs
    Johnson, David