Eudora Welty’s “Negro State Fair Parade” Photographs
This chapter proposes that Eudora Welty’s “Negro State Fair Parade” photographs of Jackson during the 1930s capture not only the segregated practices and spaces of the American South but also the transgressive rituals and transformative performances of an increasingly socially mobile black culture. These photographs, many of them never before published, display the tensions between cultural integration and racial segregation, and they speak sharply and sometimes humorously to the immediate political and economic contexts. Welty captures new African-American middle class opportunities in photographs that display long-standing black professions such as the burial and beauty parlor business, but also aspirations for upper middle-class vocations. Together these photos depict boisterous African American men and dignified women whose access to parade floats and cars indicates a new kind of racial and social mobility in the segregated southern cityscape. Welty creates a visual record of the act of claiming public space as she zooms in on various strategies of African American self-fashioning.
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