I recently visited the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. to check out a new exhibit there called The Scurlock Studio And Black Washington: Picturing The Promise.

The exhibit contains about 100 images created by the famous and distinguished Scurlock Studio, a black-owned and family-run business which for nearly a century documented African American life and culture in and around the nation’s capital.

Scurlock Studio was founded in the early 1900s by Addison Scurlock, and later operated by his sons, George and Robert, into the 1990s.

All of the photographs are mesmerizing.  And some are even breathtaking.

One of my favorites is a photograph of the basketball team of Dunbar High School in the district, formerly known as the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth and then the M Street High School.

The photo includes a young Charles Drew — who later became a world-renowned surgeon and medical researcher — as well as basketball pioneer Edwin B. Henderson.

Dunbar High School basketball team, 1922

The Dunbar High School basketball team featuring Charles Drew (fourth from right) and Head Coach Edwin B. Henderson (far right).

I love the fact that this photo is included in the collection — it shines a big light on the Black Fives Era of hoops.

I also love the write-up that goes with the image, because it acknowledges that Henderson was “a founding father of organized black basketball.”

It’s no surprise that the Smithsonian Institute did its homework on that important point.

Charles Drew at Amherst College

Charles Drew the football player, at Amherst College.

By the way, Drew was an outstanding sprinter, and later became the captain of the Amherst College track team, where from 1923 to 1925 he also starred in basketball and football.

After graduating from Amherst, Drew attended medical school at Howard University.

Picturing A Promise is a collaboration between the National Museum of American History — located on the Mall in D.C. — and the soon-to-be-built National Museum of African American History.  Both of these museums are part of the overall Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibit goes until November 15, 2009.

There is also an affordable, richly-illustrated, 224-page companion book now available: The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise.

(Dunbar High School photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute. Drew football photo courtesy of Claude Johnson.)