1717 Wayne Street
Richard Samuel Roberts House
Florida native Richard Samuel Roberts lived in this house from 1920 until his death in 1936. A self-taught photographer, in 1922 he opened Roberts Studio at 1119 1/2 Washington Street, a building he shared with several black entrepreneurs, including attorney and Palmetto Leader publisher Nathaniel J. Frederick. An adept advertiser, he marketed the idea that people should have photographs taken of everything important in their lives. For example, in an advertisement from 1927 he asked, “Is it not true that you should have…your photograph taken; your home, inside and outside; the new baby; your horse, cow, cat, dog; your children; your family group at home while all are together; and your child’s birthday.”
Despite his popularity among the black-middle class, his business was not profitable enough to support his family, leading him to work as a custodian at the federal post office. Due to the nature of Jim Crow segregation, upon his death he was remembered in the white-owned State newspaper for this work, rather than his photography. His artistic contributions remained largely unknown until more than four decades after his death, when his son discovered 3,000 negatives stored in the house’s crawlspace in 1982. These photographs provide an unparalleled look at African American life during the 1920s and 1930s – and feature family groups, birthday parties, homes, and even pets.