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James Edward Hemphill (1886-1959)

James E. Hemphill worked in Charlotte from 1917 to 1959. Besides Henry Hayden, he is the only known black photographer in Charlotte prior to 1925. He was born in Blackstock, South Carolina in 1886. Hemphill was the son of James and Frances Hemphill. (1) He firsts appears in the Charlotte City Directory in 1912. Hemphill and Jonathan S.J. Byers ran a restaurant called Hemphill and Byers. Two years later, the men operated the Epicurin Lunch at 500 Mint Street. (2) Starting in 1917, Hemphill worked as a photographer. His studio, The Carolina Studio, was originally located in the 200 block of East Trade Street. By 1925, Hemphill was living at 412 McDowell Street and the studio was now located at 221 South Brevard Street (3) James Hemphill’s work documented life in Charlotte’s black communities for more than forty years by producing panoramas of church groups and other events that captured the rich history of Charlotte’s black citizens. He died on August 20, 1959. (4)

Masonic group posing in front of the Brevard Street Library, Charlotte's first public library for black citizens. 

Rare photograph of the interior of the Charlotte Branch of the Durham Mutual Life Insurance Company. Businessman and philanthropist, Thaddeus Tate is standing in this photograph.

To see more photographers in this exhibit, click on "Charlotte Photographers."

  1. The Charlotte Observer, 22 August1959, p. 4B.
  2. Miller's Charlotte City Directories, 1912, p. 235 and 1914, p. 266.
  3. Charlotte City Directory, 1925, p. 470.
  4. The Charlotte Observer, 22 August 1959, p. 4B.