DO GOOD FUND ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCEA photographic survey of the state of Alabama made during a time of national urgency. Read the residency proposal here: Do Good Residency Proposal.
On the road September 15-Nov. 3. 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.
NOTES FROM THE ROAD
On this spot in August 1908, a group of white men took William Miller from his Brighton, Alabama jail cell in the middle of the night and lynched him in the woods. Mr. Miller was a black leader advocating for better labor conditions in the coal mines when he was arrested on false charges of violence.
Coal mining in Alabama began with the use of slave labor in the 1840s. The industry boomed in the late 1800s as Birmingham became 'The Magic City,' but after slavery was abolished, coal companies' success depended on the labor of black workers forced into bondage through convict leasing, a notorious scheme where tens of thousands of black people were arrested for trivial 'offenses' and then 'leased' to private companies who worked them mercilessly.
In Jefferson County, leased convicts and poorly paid black miners posed a threat to white laborers seeking higher pay, and there were efforts to organize labor unions. Despite the workers' common interests, the sight of formerly enslaved people challenging labor practices represented a threat to the existing racial hierarchy that many whites would not tolerate. Mr. Miller's lynching was an act of racial terror intended to discourage challenges to the existing racial order in Alabama's industrial and agricultural economies.
– Equal Justice Initiative historical marker located near Brighton City Hall
Fairfield was originally planned as a model city by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company in 1910 to house workers in their new Fairfield Works plant. While the steel plant remains a major employer, the industry has seen significant decline since the 1950s. Redlining policies and the construction of a major interstate that bisects the city soon followed. Most major retailers have now shuddered their stores. Public bus transportation was terminated in July 2016 for the city’s failure to pay its bill, and the water board has threatened to cut off all water to public buildings because of non payment. On May 20, 2020, the city filed for bankruptcy.
Tom (image 1) has lived in Fairfield for the last 16 years. In 2000, he broke his back when he fell in the bathroom. After multiple surgeries and having 19 screws placed on his spine, he was told he would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. His medical bills caused him to go bankrupt, and he lives alone and survives on his social security and medicare. Under President Obama, Tom saw cost of living adjustments made to his monthly checks, but he says Trump has cut those adjustments and he now struggles to afford groceries each month.
More images can be seen via Instagram.