Gentrification was transforming the neighborhood — soon there might be no one left who recognized the world in these pictures. And the album was literally falling apart in my hands. If I was ever going to try to get to the bottom of it, this was the time.
I decided to uncover its story. I thought it would be simple. But chasing the album would become something of a journey, one that would take me far from present-day Brooklyn to the Jim Crow South, from a remote island in the Pacific to the packed tenements of Harlem, before returning me to Lincoln Place at another moment of great change.
Last spring, I began the search.
The photos were arranged on black blotter-paper pages with little mounting corners and Scotch tape that had turned yellow with age. There were 167 pictures, and they covered both sides of the pages, as if to save space. But the photos stopped about halfway through the album. The rest of it was blank….”