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The life and legacy of Native photographer Jennie Ross Cobb
John Yang: And for the last week of Women's History Month, we spotlight another figure whose contributions have often gone unseen. Tonight, the first known female Native American photographer who captured personal images of her community.
Jennie Ross Cobb's, candid depictions of members of the Cherokee Nation, rarely seen by the rest of the country, cemented her place in tribal and photographic history. The daughter of prominent Cherokee leaders, she was given a box camera in the 1890s when she was a teen and used it to capture images of her friends and family over a period of about ten years.
Her fellow students at the Cherokee National Female Seminary, friends eating snacks, playing on train tracks and her students in front of one of the Cherokee schoolhouses where she taught for several years. They tell the story of the community the Cherokee had built after they were forced to leave their ancestral homelands in the East and of a life under threat yet again as the federal government worked to break up communally held lands to make way for railroads and non-Indian settlement.
Later in life, Cobb fought to preserve a piece of her people's heritage, campaigning to save the historic Hunter's home. When the state of Oklahoma took it over in 1945, she became curator and restored it using her own glass plate negatives. She remained in that position until her death in 1959 at the age of 77.