Reckoning Race in Eudora Welty’s Photographs

by James McWilliams

Two portraits; two men. Both are from 1930s Mississippi. The men are situated together, photos 22 and 23, both from Eudora Welty’s only published book of photographs, simply titled Photographs. If you could put a frame around both images it would be the Jim Crow South.

The image to the left is of an older, stout black man with a white moustache that droops around his mouth. He sits on a bench in a cluttered work yard in Grenada County. It looks to be the end of the workday. A small chicken darts past his left…