Photographs of African-Americans from the 19th century are a relatively rare sight. And what does exist perpetuates a narrative of invisibility — property toiling in the field or specimens to be studied.

Titled "Gwine to de Field." Taken at the plantation of James Hopkinson. Photographed by Henry P. Moore, 1862. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

But these photos from the Cornell University Library actually do chronicle the lives of 19th-century African Americans. The collection is meant "to push back against the predominance of material on African Americans as enslaved people or working in menial jobs or other stereotypical situations," Katherine Reagan, a curator of rare books and manuscripts at Cornell, told The New York Times. "We wanted to show a broader swath of people in everyday settings."

The Loewentheil Collection of African American Photographs comprises 645 images — including daguerreotypes, Polaroids, portraits, and more — dating from the 1850s to the mid-20th century. While some notable faces are featured — Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, and Muhammad Ali, for example — what's truly remarkable is the collection's dedication to the quotidian moments during tumultuous epochs.

Caption reads "Florida — New Year's Day in the Sunny South." Photographed by George Barker, 1886. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

"This collection is a bridge that documents African-Americans' movement from the worst days of American history into the brighter part of the 20th century, when many of our cultural icons were the same people who had been so viciously oppressed," Stephan Loewentheil said.

Taken together, the collection reveals volumes about black life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "You can learn a lot by how the person is dressed or situated," Reagan said. "These images are tantalizing for what they show, but also what they don't show." Take a closer look at a selection of photos from the Loewentheil Collection below.

Photographed by Alfred S. Campbell, 1896. | | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Caption reads, "Jonah Swallowing the Whale." 1897. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

A river baptism witnessed by hundreds in the late 19th century. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Two portraits from the late 19th century. | | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Late 19th century. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Lucas Line steamship, with African-American children on the riverbank in the foreground. White people sit high up on the ship. Photographed by O. Pierre Havens, late 19th century. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

(Left) Early 20th century. | (Right) Caption on the back reads, "Taken in the pines of the Catskill Mountains," late 19th century. | | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

1938. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Two photos from the early 20th century. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

Early 20th century. | (Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

(Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, Cornell University Library)

**Click here for the complete Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs**