Howdy, Honey, Howdy

Howdy, honey, howdy /

Howdy, Honey, Howdy by Paul Laurence Dunbar (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1905)
Will Jenkins (20th century) binding designer
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Very little is known about Will Jenkins, the designer of the second-to-last photo-texts. His volume is distinct, however, as being the first to incorporate a photograph on the cover. The image of the young woman standing on the threshold of her cabin, beckoning the reader in, corresponds to the title poem “Howdy, Honey, Howdy.” Figures standing in doorways, or beside windows and other thresholds, are a common visual theme throughout the photo-texts. Dunbar’s text established these scenes in many cases. However, the iconography also suggests a new generation of African Americans ready to step into the public sphere.

Howdy, honey, howdy /

Photograph, not dated, from “The Old Cabin” in Howdy, Honey, Howdy by Paul Laurence Dunbar (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1905)
Leigh Richmond Miner (1864 – 1935)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum

As in the earlier volumes, most of the Miner’s work for the Dunbar books consisted of portraits of African American subjects in domestic scenes. The models were most likely members of the local community; several communities around Hampton were established during the Civil War by African American contrabands (or enslaved persons who freed themselves by escaping to Union lines). Although some of the models were posed and costumed to correspond with descriptions in Dunbar’s text, many of the subjects were photographed in their own homes and clothes. In addition to illustrating Dunbar’s poetry, the photographs are thus reliable historical documents of Black American life in rural Virginia in the post-Reconstruction era.

Howdy, Honey, Howdy