Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Southern Comfort?

These Alabama tenant farmers had little of it.

In 1936 ‘Fortune’ magazine rejected the article they’d assigned to James Agee (and photographer Walker Evans) about three southern tenant farming families. It was way too long and way too artfully written for a business magazine.  Agee eventually made it even longer and it was published as the book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

A few months ago, the original, rejected manuscript was published. It’s called, Cotton Tenants. It has the Evans photos. You’ve seen the one of Allie Mae Burroughs. I just read it. It’s hard to believe people lived that far off the grid. With hardly any comforts. Bad teeth. Primitive sanitation. Flour-sack clothes. No prospects for the kids. School took a distant second place to planting and picking cotton.

You should probably read it, to know about such lives.

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