The Unnamed Woman in the Photograph

On a summer day in 1949, Karl Bissinger photographed ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, novelist Donald Windham, painter Buffie Johnson, playwright Tennessee Williams, and writer Gore Vidal at Café Nicholson in New York City. Of the photo, Vidal later wrote: “I don’t know what effect the picture has on those who now look at it, but I think it perfectly evokes an optimistic time in our history that we are not apt to see again soon.”

There was another person in the photo that went unmentioned at the time: Virginia Reed, the black woman who served them that day. In the Oxford American, John T. Edge writes about trying to figure out who that unnamed woman serving them was, and why she deserves to be credited.

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