So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

You Have Seen Their Faces

You Have Seen Their Faces, by Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White
In the early years of the Great Depression, the author Erskine Caldwell and the photographer Margaret Bourke-White spent 18 months in the American Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee interviewing and photographing tenant farmers, commonly known as sharecroppers. This book, published in 1935 is the result of their work. Caldwell wrote about sharecroppers barely scraping a living from land drained of all fertility, the landlords who kept 10 million Southerners in economic slavery to produce cotton, and the politicians and ministers who supported the system rather than reform it. While he interviewed, Bourke-White sat quietly with camera ready to photograph them. It includes 75 mostly, full-page pictures taken by her that portray the destitute life of the tenant farming families. This is an amazing depiction of Southern poverty in words and pictures that I found very moving in spite of its age.

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