in-progress

DO GOOD FUND ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE

A photographic survey of the state of Alabama made during a time of national urgency. Read the residency proposal here.

On the road Fall 2020-Spring 2021. Follow the project travelogue here and via Instagram @jaredragland.

Over the course of the project I’ll be reading and sharing from a list of Alabama-focused literature along with selections on photo history and ethics, documentary practices, and contemporary imagemakers. See the list here: Residency Reading List.


About The Do Good Fund, Inc: Since its founding in 2012, the Columbus, Georgia based public charity has focused on building a museum-quality collection of photographs taken in the American South since World War II. The collection ranges from works by more than twenty Guggenheim Fellows to images by lesser known and emerging photographers working in the region, each contributing to the visual narrative of the ever-changing South. Do Good’s mission is to make its collection of nearly 600 images broadly accessible through regional museums, nonprofit galleries, and nontraditional venues and to encourage complementary, community-based programming to accompany each exhibition. For more, visit thedogoodfund.org and follow @thedogoodfund.

The project is also made with the support of the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Magnum Foundation.

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travelogue

NOTES FROM THE ROAD


03.09.21 – COLEMAN CENTER FOR THE ARTS AiR 



After a brief hiatus to weather the winter, I am back on the road. Through March I am focusing on west Alabama and the Black Belt region with the generous support of an artist residency at the Coleman Center for the Arts in York, Ala.

Founded in 1985 through the grassroots efforts of local citizens, CCA nurtures and facilitates partnerships between artists and community, integrating contemporary art into education, civic life, and community development throughout the region. The residency is made possible by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


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01.15.21 – BLADESLINGER 



Johnny “Bladeslinger” Lesley, South Townley, Walker Co.


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12.23.20 – RUFUS LESSEUR LYNCHING 



On August 16, 1904, a mob of unmasked white men in Marengo County, Alabama, lynched Rufus Lesseur, a 24-year-old Black man, and left his body riddled with bullets.

Less than two days earlier, a white woman in Thomaston, Alabama, claimed that a Black man had entered her home and frightened her. After someone claimed that a hat found near the woman’s home belonged to Mr. Lesseur, a mob of white men formed and kidnapped him. The white men transported a terrified Mr. Lesseur into the nearby woods, and locked him in a tiny calaboose, or makeshift jail, for more than a day.

At 3:00 a.m. on August 16, without an investigation, trial, conviction of any offense, or a sentencing proceeding, a mob of white men broke into the locked shack, seized Mr. Lesseur, dragged him outside, and lynched him, filling his body with bullets.

Although he was lynched by a mob of unmasked white men in a town with only 300 residents, state officials claimed that no one could be identified, arrested, or prosecuted for his murder. Mr. Lesseur is one of at least four Black victims of racial terror violence lynched in Marengo County between 1877 and 1950.

Info courtesy EJI.org.


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12.23.20 – WILLIE EDWARDS, JR. LYNCHING 



Near the site of the old Tyler Goodwin Bridge, Montgomery Co., where Willie Edwards, Jr. was lynched in 1957.

In the pre-dawn hours of January 23, 1957, a Black man named Willie Edwards, Jr. was declared missing when the truck he was employed to drive was found abandoned along the road near Montgomery, Alabama. It was later discovered that four Klansmen had forced Mr. Edwards, a resident of Montgomery, to jump to his death from the nearby Tyler Goodwin Bridge. Mr. Edwards was driving back from his first assignment as a deliveryman for a Winn-Dixie grocery store when he stopped for a soft drink. As he read his log book under the console light in his truck, the four armed white men approached the vehicle, forced Mr. Edwards to exit the truck at gunpoint, and ordered him to get into their car.

Accusing Mr. Edwards of “offending a white woman,” the men proceeded to shove and slap him as they drove. One man pointed his gun at Mr. Edwards and threatened to castrate him. Sobbing and begging the men not to harm him, Mr. Edwards repeatedly denied having said anything to any white woman. Eventually the men reached the bridge and ordered Mr. Edwards out of the car. Ordered to “hit the water” or be shot, Mr. Edwards climbed the railing of the bridge and fell 125 feet to his death.

Mr. Edwards’s truck was soon found in the store parking lot, with the console light still on, but authorities had no answers about what had happened to him. Mr. Edwards’s wife Sarah, just 23 years old and pregnant, was left to raise their two young daughters. She initially hoped her husband had taken an unannounced trip to California, but those hopes were dashed in April 1957 when two fishermen discovered his decomposed body.

Nearly twenty years later, in 1976, Attorney General Bill Baxley prosecuted three known Klansmen for Mr. Edwards’s murder, after a fourth man confessed in exchange for immunity. Those indictments were later quashed and the FBI ultimately informed the AG that one of the men charged, Henry Alexander, was a federal informant. Mr. Alexander had been indicted for other acts of racial violence, including bombings of four churches and two homes, and the assault of a Black woman riding on a bus. Mr. Alexander was never prosecuted for any of those offenses, and the charges for Mr. Edwards's murder were dropped.

In 1993, Mr. Alexander reportedly confessed to his wife on his deathbed that he and three other Klansmen had indeed murdered Mr. Edwards. Alexander's wife later reported he told her, “That man never hurt anybody. I was just running my mouth. I caused it.”

In 1997, the Alabama Department of Vital Statistics changed Mr. Edwards’s cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide,” but a 1999 Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict any of the surviving suspects for the murder of Willie Edwards Jr.

Info courtesy EJI.org.


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