John W. Mosley was a self-taught photojournalist who extensively documented the everyday activities of the African-American community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for more than 30 years, a period including both World War II and the civil rights movement. His work was published widely in newspapers and magazines including The Philadelphia Tribune, Pittsburgh Courier, and Jet magazine.
Mosley has been called a “cultural warrior” for preserving a record of African-American life in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, one which combats “negative stereotypes and false interpretations of African-American history and culture”. More than 300,000 of Mosley’s photographs are included in the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University. Exhibitions of his work have been shown at the Philadelphia International Airport and the Woodmere Art Museum.
Mosley, the son of a Baptist preacher, moved to Philadelphia in 1934 from Lumberton, North Carolina during the Great Migration. He learned the fundamentals of photography while working for Barksdale Photography Studio at 8th and Market Streets. Known among the African American community as a “picture-taking man”, Mosley worked seven days a week as a photojournalist for Black newspapers along the East Coast, and his photos were often featured in Jet magazine. He was the longtime staff photographer for the Pyramid Club, a distinguished social organization for Black professionals at 1517 W. Girard Avenue, founded in 1937 to advance the civic and cultural standing of African Americans.