Blacks@Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

Augustus Washington

Daguerreotypist, Liberian Colonist, and Politician

alumnus image

Dartmouth College

Class of 1847

Born  1821  Trenton NJ

Died 1875 Monrovia Liberia

Quotes from Biographical Sources

Augustus Washington, 1847, was the second black admitted in [President Nathan] Lord's administration. The son of an ex-slave and an Asian mother, he was born in Trenton, N.J. While growing into manhood he became a true believer in the abolitionist cause because of his father's deep involvement. His admiration for the redoubtable William Lloyd Garrison in the anti-slavery crusade was also influential. Washington pursued his education and interest in photography as well.

After completing his educational course he moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he taught for a while. Meanwhile, the siren call of photography became stronger than his interest in education; he moved to Hartford, Connecticut to pursue that profession and opened a daguerreotype studio to help finance the continuation of his education, first at Kimball Union Academy. After a short time at KUA, he was accepted at Dartmouth, where he matriculated in 1843 and remained only one year.

Still uncertain about his career, he returned to Hartford, where he earned the reputation of being one of the outstanding daguerreotype photographers of his day. Washington's success as a photographer, however, did not allay his latent concern for the plight of black slaves. With the passage of the Compromise of 1850 and in the wake of steady deterioration of hope among blacks (and some white abolitionists) that they would ever be able to live in equality in the United States, he became increasingly confused and disaffected by the unfolding drama in the United States. Anticipating that the drama would end not to his liking, he agreed with those who felt that African emigration was the only viable alternative.

Leaving behind his hard-earned reputation as a photographer, Washington left the United States for Liberia 'believing that only Africa could be the black man's home in this world. In Liberia, he worked as a schoolteacher, a daguerreotypist, farmer, and store proprietor.

Hall, Raymond L. (Nov 1986). A Reaffirmation of Mission?: The Saga of the Black Experience at Dartmouth. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine 79(3), 38.

Other source(s)

  1. National Portrait Gallery : A Durable Memento: Portraits by Augustus Washington, African American Daguerrotypist. Retrieved from
  2. African Colonization–By a Man of Color Augustus Washington, July 03, 1851. Retrieved from
  3. Dunn, D. Elwood, Beyan, Amost J., & Burrowes, Carl Patrick. (2001). Washington, Augustus (1820-1875). In Jon Woronoff (Ed.), Historical Dictionary of Liberia (2nd ed., pp. 354-355). Lanham, Maryland and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
  4. Michaelides, Lee. (June 1999). John Brown's Photographer. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 91(9), 50-51.
  5. The Daguerreotypist.
  6. Smith, S.M. (2017). Augustus Washington: Looks to Liberia. Journal of Contemporary African Art 41, 6-13.

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