Cycle of Debt and Poverty Illuminated in Agee’s “Cotton Tenants”
In 1936, journalist James Agee and photographer Walker Evans traveled to rural Alabama to document the lives of impoverished sharecropper families for Fortune Magazine. Their collaboration resulted in the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a study of families wracked by Depression-era poverty in the deep south that was accompanied by Evans’s photographs. Still, the magazine never ran the original article. Now that article has been recovered. Some 30,000 words long, it is being released as a book called Cotton Tenants: Three Families. The book’s co-editors are John Summers and Adam Hasselt. Summers joined host John Lemley to talk about the project. In this piece, WABE’s Kate Sweeney narrates passages from the book.
John Summers, editor at The Baffler, is at the Carter Library Monday, June 17th, to speak on a panel about Cotton Tenants. He is joined by Hugh Davis, the Agee academic at Piedmont College, Hank Klibanoff, the Pulitzer-prize winning former managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Chip Simone, an Atlanta photojournalist. For more information, click here.