This film is part of Free
Barefoot sharecroppers and ‘No Coloreds’ signs; plantation mansions and Confederate cemeteries: a look at the Deep South which disturbs and informs in equal measure.
Set in the context of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, this March of Time film portrays a region that, despite its problems, was seen as having the potential to become an economic powerhouse. In 1940 the Deep South was still suffering from the long-term effects of the Civil War and although shots of paddle steamers evoke a sense of nostalgia, images of poverty-stricken black communities and shack-dwelling families show the persistence of deep-rooted problems.
Despite the fact that the achievements of notable figures in the black community like Booker T. Washington and scientist George Washington Carver (who was born a slave) are celebrated in this film, modern viewers will feel uneasy at the way racial problems are largely ignored. The sole reference to segregation is a brief shot of a ‘No Coloreds’ sign on a shop window and although the film looks at the longstanding hardships endured by much of the South’s black population, these issues - notably poverty, education and employment - are not considered in a wider political or racial context.