During the summer of 1936, Walker Evans, a preeminent photo documentarian of the New Deal, worked with writer James Agee on a project originally intended for Fortune magazine about the devastating effects of economic conditions on white tenant farmers. Agee and Evans spent eight weeks that summer researching their assignment, mainly among three white sharecropping families mired in desperate poverty in Hale County and Perry County, Alabama. Special photo albums preserved in the Prints & Photographs Division represent the photographic essence of what later appeared as the landmark book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published first in 1941.
The stark, stunning black-and-white photographs within these two albums show the family members, farms, and houses of the three families and include portraits, details of rooms and belongings, cotton, activities such as washing clothes, stores in the vicinity, meeting house, and Sunday singing.
- View the digital files of original album pages for Volume 1, Pictures of the house and family of an Alabama cotton sharecropper
- View the digital files of original album pages for Volume 2, The house and the family of Frank Tengle near Moundville, Hale County, Ala.
Find out what happened to the sharecropping families after the publication of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in the book And Their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee, Walker Evans, and the Rise and Fall of Cotton in the South by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson, first published in 1989 by Pantheon Books (//lccn.loc.gov/88043136) and re-issued in 2004 by Seven Stories Press (//lccn.loc.gov/2004022848).