Jacqui Love Thornell and her husband Kwasi Thornell have made the largest ever photography donation to Broward’s County’s African American Research Library Cultural Center (ARLCC) in Fort Lauderdale.
They gifted more than 1,300 photographs, documenting African American life from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, to the ARLCC Special Collections and Archives Department’s “Frozen in Time: Selections from the Love-Thornell Collection.”
Love Thornell, a human resource executive for several major media companies said she had retired when she found herself wanting to do more.
“I started out on ancestry.com looking for family photos, (and) realized we had none,” she said. “I expanded my search. I started looking up photos from the 1800s to the 1950s. I found everyday people. I started looking up albums and started learning about forms of photographs.”
The scholar with an Ed. M. from Harvard University, also an avid reader, traveler and writer, said she envisioned the expansive collection, donated, in November 2021, as an educational tool. “I thought it would be great for teachers for Black history.”
With numerous worldwide options for sharing the fruits of her labor, the Miami native chose South Florida, and entered talks with the Broward research library, which now is the collection’s home. The exhibition also is digitized, so it can be viewed from anywhere around the globe.
Despite its potential monetary value, Love Thornell said no money was exchanged; the gift to the library was strictly a donation.
“Yes it would have been nice, but it was not about the money. I love donating and making a contribution,” she said. “I feel so good knowing I’ve left something behind.”
Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, regional manager at the AARLCC, was “elated for such a gift from the Love-Thornell family. It was a beautiful surprise and an honor to receive such a donation,” she said. “We are so grateful and appreciative to this family for considering us. We are most gracious and excited.”
The library noted that African Americans became both enthusiastic picture takers and fascinating subjects when the advent of photography in 1839 provided an invaluable opportunity to document life at an unforeseen rate by a magical new medium.
Love-Thornell said her goal was to go beyond stereotypical images of Black people over the previous century, such as picking cotton.
She also noted the signiﬁcance of the collection for Women’s History Month, given that she intentionally celebrated Black women who are extensively featured in the assemblage.
“What I was aiming for, and especially regarding black women, was to select photos where the person exuded a sense of dignity and self-respect.”
“If there was joy it was the icing on the cake.”
To view the Love-Thornell Collection of Black American Photographs, call the
AARLCC at 954-357-6282. Select option 4.