There is a long tradition of linking literature and photography. Most notably Roy DeCarava’s and Langston Hughes’s collaboration “The Sweet Flypaper of Life”. When I visited these predominately African-American communities Toni Morrison’s words echoed in my head…
A joke. A nigger joke, that was the way it got started. Not the town, of course, but that part of town where the Negroes lived. The part they called the bottom in spite of the fact that it was up in the hills. Just a nigger joke. The kind of white folks tell when the mill closes down and they’re looking for a little comfort somewhere. The kind colored folks tell on themselves when the rain doesn’t come for weeks, and they’re looking for a little comfort somehow.
A good white farmer promised freedom and a piece of bottom land to his slave if he would perform some very difficult chores. When the slave completed the work, he asked the farmer to keep his end of the bargain. Freedom was easy–the farmer had no objection to that. But he didn’t want to give up any land. So he told the slave that he was very sorry that he had to give him valley land. He had hoped to give him a piece of the Bottom. The slave blinked and said he thought valley land was the bottom land. The master said, “Oh no! See those hills? That’s bottom land, rich and fertile.”