Mr. Pruitt’s Possum Town: Trouble and Resilience in the American South
July 5 @ 10:00 am - November 5 @ 2:00 pmFree
On display at SHSMO and RJI through November 5, 2022, Mr. Pruitt’s Possum Town presents a selection of photographs by Otis Noel Pruitt, a white photographer who documented life from 1920-1960 in the segregated town of Columbus, Mississippi–known locally as “Possum Town.” Frequently photographing his fellow community members and neighbors, Pruitt became the de facto documentarian for Lowndes County in the mid-twentieth century.
Join us August 25 from 4-6:30 p.m. for the opening reception of Mr. Pruitt’s Possum Town.
Now archived at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, Pruitt’s work comprises more than 90,000 photographs ranging in composition from formal studio portraits to candidly captured moments. His subject matter also varies from joyous celebrations of birth and holiday to mundane documentation of civic life to the horrific depiction of a lynching. Per the University of North Carolina Press, “Pruitt’s documentary of a specific yet representative southern town offers viewers today an invitation to meditate on the interrelations of photography, community, race, and historical memory.”
Owing to Pruitt’s wide scope and steadfast prolificacy, his work was repeatedly included in issues of the Columbus newspaper Commercial Dispatch and occasionally distributed to The Associated Press and other newswire services. Alongside Mr. Pruitt’s Possum Town, the State Historical Society of Missouri is presenting Picturing Missouri Sharecroppers: Finding Counterparts to Pruitt’s Images in Missouri-Correlations and Disparities which displays work by two St. Louis Post-Dispatch colleagues, cartoonist Daniel Fitzpatrick and photojournalist Arthur Witman. Fitzpatrick and Witman’s depictions of southeast Missouri’s cultural and racial landscape in the 1930s and 1940s share some similarities with Pruitt’s Mississippi photographs. Learn more about this companion exhibition.
Mr. Pruitt’s Possum Town is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and presented in partnership with the Missouri School of Journalism. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Berkley Hudson, a professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Note to visitors: this exhibition contains some images that are sensitive or offensive. Screens have been installed to give visitors control over the choice to view these images.