The Mystery of the Ambrotype: Who was Sam Word's Father?
Ambrotypes, an early form of photography, are made on glass plates and date to the mid-19th century. This ambrotype shows the image of a young African-American man who appears to have very light colored skin tone. Special Collections has wondered for years who this man was and why this photograph was in the Reverend Claude Black collection. Based on other artifacts in this collection, such as "Who is the Man on the Horse" and census data, Special Collections suspects that this could be an image of Sam Word’s father, who would be Claude Black Jr.’s grandfather.
This tale by an unknown author recounts the story of Wiley Word Sr. and his unidentified cousin. No one in the Word family seems to know this man’s name, but multiple members remember him. The tale discusses the family origins of Sam Word, Reverend Claude Black Jr.’s grandfather. The line “John Word recalls that he heard Sam Word’s father was Charles “Charlie” Word, a white man,” leads us to suspect that the ambrotype included in this exhibit is of Sam Word’s father.