Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reader feedback on Walker Evans and the Depression

One of my last posts was about Walker Evans and his book (with James Agee), Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: The American Classic, in Words and Photographs, of Three Tenant Families in the Deep South. One of the blog readers sent me a link to more of the story. I didn't realize there was lingering bitterness at the exposure of their poverty, and anger that they never received compensation.

There was even a subsequent book, a retracing with re-photography of the children now grown up titled, And Their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (a title drawn from the same passage of Ecclesiasticus) by journalist Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson. This book even won a Pulitzer in 1990. I don't know if the families received any compensation this time around.

However, this is an American saga. Three generations removed from the poverty of Mills Hill, the grandchildren are set to go to college. According to the Fortune article, The Most Famous Story We Never Told, they don't share their father's lingering resentment, they feel pride in the struggle of their fore-fathers/mothers.

I would agree with them. For many years I have had a framed photograph, ordered from the Library of Congress, of Allie Mae Burroughs (shown below). I keep Ms. Burroughs in my kitchen. When I drink my daily morning coffee, she reminds me to be strong and to endure.

Note: Photographs are from the Library of Congress Farm Security Administration collection.

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