Columbus library hosts exhibit on 'Gee's Bend' community

January 19, 2013 7:52:07 PM

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The exhibit "Looking Back at Gee's Bend: The Photographs of John Reese, 1980" is currently on display at the Chebie G. Bateman building of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. 

 

On loan from the Birmingham Public Library, the exhibit explores Gee's Bend, a unique African-American community situated deep within a bend of the Alabama River in Wilcox County, Alabama. With the existence of only one road in or out of the area and limited transportation, life in Gee's Bend remained much the same and relatively free of outside influences for decades.  

 

North Carolinian Joseph Gee originally settled the area. Gee and the planters who succeeded him brought slaves into the area to work their cotton fields. Following the Civil War and emancipation, many former slaves remained in Gee's Bend (the Bend), choosing to work as tenant farmers. During the Great Depression many white landowners were forced into bankruptcy and therefore the federal government purchased large tracts of their lands in the Bend. This land was then divided into 40-acre units, with a house and a two-story barn built on each unit. The government then sold these farms to African-American residents at affordable prices. 

 

In an effort to capture this distinctive community, the Birmingham Public Library began documenting the area in 1978. This endeavor resulted in the creation of 450 photographs taken by photographer John Resse from 1980-81 of the life and people of the Bend. Reese captured portraits of residents, pictures of houses, barns, churches, baptisms, the school, landscapes, farmers, and quilters. Select images from this collection are included in the "Looking Back at Gee's Bend" exhibit. 

 

The exhibit is on display now until Tuesday, Feb. 26 of Black History Month. 

 

For more information, contact Mona K. Vance at 662-329-5304, or by email at mvance@lowndes.lib.ms.us.