The Mississippi Department of Archives and History will host History Is Lunch on Wednesday when Berkley Hudson presents “Pruitt’s Historic Columbus Photographs.” The show will also be streamed live on Facebook.
Hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium at the Mississippi Museum of History and the Mississippi Museum of Civil Rights building at 222 North St., Jackson.
A native of Columbus, Hudson is the author of the new book “ON Pruitt’s Possum Town: Photographing Trouble and Resilience in the American South.”
For some 40 years, Otis Noel Pruitt (1891-1967) was the de facto documentarian of Lowndes County and Columbus, known to locals as “Possum Town.” His work is reminiscent of many Farm Security Administration photographers, but Pruitt was no stranger with an agenda. He was a member of the community who had an intimate knowledge of the city and its people.
Pruitt photographed his fellow white and black citizens alike, in circumstances ranging from the mundane to the gruesome: family picnics, parades, river baptisms, carnivals, fires, funerals, two of Mississippi’s last public and legal executions by hanging and a lynching. .
An exhibit featuring Pruitt’s work will open Feb. 3 at the Columbus Arts Council.
“From formal portraits to candid images of current events, Pruitt’s documentary about a specific but representative southern city today offers viewers an invitation to ponder the interrelationships of photography, community, race and historical memory,” Hudson said.
Hudson was photographed by Pruitt. For more than three decades, he has examined and curated the Pruitt archives, both as a scholar of media and visual journalism and as a member of the community. Hudson’s book presents Pruitt’s photography like never before, combining over 190 images with a biographical introduction and short essays by Hudson.
Breach of Peach author Eric Etheridge wrote, “Dazzling footage from remarkable archival material. Otis Noel Pruitt photographed his part of Mississippi head-on, omnivorously, leaving behind an encyclopedic record of life in the South in the early to mid-twentieth century. Look carefully at these images. Embedded in their details are not only clues to a world long gone, but also to the present moment.
Hudson is an associate professor emeritus of media history at the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s weekly lecture series explores different aspects of the state’s past. MDAH is livestreaming videos of the program at noon Wednesday on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MDAHOfficial/. The videos are posted on the department’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/MDAHVideo.