Tag Archives: African-American Life in Georgia During the Great Depression

Tony Thompson, Ex-Slave

Tony Thompson a man who was born in Slavery Greene County GA June 1941 Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website

One of the most important facets of the work done by the WPA photographers was their documentation of living survivors of slavery, who by the Great Depression were all elderly men and women. Many were glad to be able to tell their stories and we are lucky to have the visual and historical record today. This gentleman was Tony Thompson of Greene County.

Jack Delano/Library of Congress (June 1941)

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Filed under --GREENE COUNTY GA--

Greene County Fair, October 1941

Greene County GA Fair 1941 Ring Toss Game Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website 2014

When Jack Delano made these photographs one October evening in 1941 in Greensboro, America was readying for war and times were changing quickly. In 1941, the county fair passed for “high-end” entertainment.

Greene County GA Fair October 1941 Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website 2014

Greene County GA Fair 1941 Recreation Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website 2014

Fairs were one of the few places where African-American and white Georgians came together in public, without much attention to the Jim Crow laws that pervaded the wider society of the day, though restrictions were still in place in the broader context.

Greene County GA Fair 1941 African Americans Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website 2014

Greene County GA Fair October 1941 Children Having Fun Photo by Jack Delano Library of Congress Brian Brown Georgia in the Great Depression Website 2014

Jack Delano/Library of Congress (October 1941)

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Filed under --GREENE COUNTY GA--, Greensboro GA

Turpentine Culture at Du Pont

Turpentine Worker Dupont GA African American Laborers Photo Dorothea Lange Courtesy Library of Congress Georgia in the Great Depression Website Brian Brown Vanishing Media USA 2013

In the heart of Southeast Georgia turpentine country, Dorothea Lange captured a turpentine worker, broken from a hot July day’s work in the forests, and his wife looking out the window of their cabin. It’s a typical board-and-batten structure, common in the turpentine industry.

Wife of Turpentine Worker Dupont GA African American Laborers Photo Dorothea Lange Courtesy Library of Congress Georgia in the Great Depression Website Brian Brown Vanishing Media USA 2013

Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress (July 1937)

Here’s a “turpentine cabin” I photographed in Appling County last year.

appling-county-ga-turpentine-cabin-verncular-architecture-board-and-batten-walls-picture-image-photo-©-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

Turpentine Cabin, Fred Carter Road, 2012 © Brian Brown

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Filed under --CLINCH COUNTY GA--, Du Pont GA

McCranie Brothers Naval Stores, Willacoochee

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McCranie Brothers Naval Stores, Willacoochee, Georgia. © Brian Brown, 2011.

Built in 1936, the McCranie Brothers turpentine still near Willacoochee is the last original still in its original location remaining in Georgia. It is a reminder of a time when naval stores were the only cash crop in South Georgia other than cotton, and luckily, is maintained by descendants. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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McCranie Brothers Naval Stores, Willacoochee, Georgia. © Brian Brown, 2011.

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Turpentine Industry in Statesboro, 1941

Tapping the furnace of hot rosin.

The naval stores industry was the only real industry in Georgia during the Great Depression.  When Jack Delano made these photographs in Statesboro in April 1941, turpentining was at its zenith, with orders pouring in to feed the war effort. By the 1950s, the industry was near its end, confined to a few scattered operations around the Coastal Plain.

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Filtering hot rosin through sieves.

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Filling paper sacks with hot rosin.

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Laying out bags of hot rosin to harden.

All images: Jack Delano/Library of Congress. (April 1941)

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Filed under --BULLOCH COUNTY GA--, Statesboro GA

Chain Gang in Oglethorpe County

The Georgia penal system had been under national scrutiny for nearly a decade when Jack Delano made these photographs in 1941. All Images: Jack Delano/Library of Congress. (May 1941)

I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! was a sensational best-selling book by Robert Elliott Burns. Published in 1932, it recounts the dramatic story of the author’s imprisonment in Georgia and his two successful escapes, eight years apart, with seven years of freedom, business success, and emotional intrigue in between.

Burns’s book is full of sensational, lurid, yet mostly verifiable descriptions of mistreatment, brutality, disgusting food, and labor so unrelenting and exhausting that it left men in a stupor. As he soon learned from his wretched fellow prisoners that to leave the chain gang a man had to “work out, pay out, die out, or run out,” Burns decided to run out. He did so in June 1922, after serving only a few months’ time. Burns’s dramatic escape to Chicago was crowned by brilliant success in the publishing business, social recognition, and marriage. But years later when he proved an unfaithful husband, his wife, Emily, turned him in to the authorities. His arrest on May 22, 1929, caused a sensation in Chicago. Burns had never told Emily about his past, but she discovered his secret by opening letters from his brother, the Reverend Vincent Burns, an Episcopal priest.

Source: The New Georgia Encyclopedia: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-793

While the book brought national attention to the plight of Southern prisoners and was perceived horribly by the rest of the nation, such practices remained common in the South for another two decades. Delano’s curiosity was surely piqued when he came across these scenes in rural Oglethorpe County.

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Filed under --OGLETHORPE COUNTY GA--

Negro Boy Selling Pecans Near Alma

At 10 lbs./$1, pecans were a high-priced commodity, even during the Depression era. It was a common practice for producers to sell their crop directly to the public, foregoing the costly middle man.

The sign on the right advertises the Carolina Home Restaurant in Alma, tempting travelers with the promise of “Hot Biscuits”.

All photos: Arthur Rothstein/Library of Congress. (January 1937)

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Filed under --BACON COUNTY GA--