Charmian Sproule Reading, A pregnant woman just before her death, Greene County, Alabama, May 4, 1966
Headed into Pickens, Greene, Sumter and Hale counties in the next week, and in researching the areas I discovered this profound photograph in the Chrysler Museum collection by Charmian Sproule Reading.
In the tradition of documentary photographers from the 1930s, Charmian Reading traveled through the rural South to record the region’s struggles with poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Here she visits a tent city in rural Alabama, a temporary home to blacks evicted by their landlords because they registered to vote. This family’s 17-year-old daughter, standing in the center, went into labor four days after this photograph was taken. When the nearby whites-only hospital turned her away, the young woman bled to death before she could reach another clinic.
Reading recalls: "This seventeen-year-old woman posed for me with her mother and younger cousin in their tent. They were one of several families evicted from a plantation because they had registered to vote; they lived in tents on a friend's farm. I was in Greene County with Phillis Cunningham of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, trying to deal with some of the health problems there. Four days after this picture was taken, the young woman went into labor. The local white hospital turned her away; on the drive to another hospital, she bled to death."
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