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Unidentified Photographer

[Cotton pickers]

Date ca. 1875-80
Dimensions Image (size of each image): 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 in. (7.9 x 7.9 cm)
Paper: 3 1/8 x 6 1/4 in. (7.9 x 15.9 cm)
Mount: 3 1/2 x 7 in. (8.9 x 17.8 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver-Stereograph

This remarkable view of Southern plantation labor shows black workers seated amid bales of picked cotton while their white supervisors stand in the distance in front of a storage or farmhouse. After cotton pods were picked by hand-most likely by the people shown here-the harvest was organized into bales in preparation for "ginning." This photograph may have been taken at the end of the work day, when the packing of the bales was complete and the cotton was ready to be fed into the gin.
While blacks occupy the foreground and serve as the primary focus of the image, the placement of the white overseers-standing rather than seated and rising above the blacks in the photograph-turns the image into a statement on the maintenance of a racial and economic order through white authority and black subjugation.

Credit line

Gift of Daniel Cowin, 1990

Feedback Accession No. 449.1990