n e w   d e a l   n e t w o r k

A New Deal for Carbon Hill, Alabama
A Photographic Document by William C. Pryor
introduction | slide show | documents

Letter to George L. Davis, 9/9/1938
William C. Pryor

National Archives and Records Administration,
Records of the WPA, "Miscellaneous Records of
the Photography Division," RG 69, E 696, Box 2.

September 9, 1938

Mr. George L. Davis
Director, Information Service
Works Progress Administration
326 First National Bank Building
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Mr. Davis:

Mr. Wright has written a letter to Administrator Henderson with a carbon copy to you, concerning some pictures I plan to make in Alabama within the next week or so. I am writing you personally to give you the details of the matter with which Mr. Henderson will not need to be burdened but which I imagine will be of much interest to you.

The story of the WPA has been told, of course, from the standpoint of the people put to work and from the standpoint of physical accomplishments and so on. Now, we would like to do it from the standpoint of what the people who live along the newly paved streets think; what the people who have the benefits of the new sewer systems and the new waterworks think and perhaps what the people who live in those parts of town that have missed such improvements think.

It seemed to me that Carbon Hill, Alabama because of the unusual benefits which it has derived from the Works Program lends itself particularly well to this sort of story. I plan to spend a week to ten days in Carbon Hill becoming acquainted with the people and interviewing them and photographing them at their daily tasks. We want to know what Mrs. Brown" on "A" street has to say about how much work and money she has been saved because paving the street in front of her house made cleaning a lot easier, and we want to get similar reactions from many people in Carbon Hill. Even the town loafer will not be excepted if we can find a good picturesque loafer. We want to know what the "boys in the backroom" will have to say; what all the various local business people think. We will be willing to include a few knocks, as well as boosts, if there are any, simply to give the thing the flavor of authenticity.

I worked out a preliminary draft of the sort of thing we have in mind and it was submitted to the Washington Editor of Look Magazine. He was quite enthused and indicated that if we did a good job he would use several pages on Carbon Hill as a lead story in one issue. Hence, I am coming down and will bring a rather detailed scenario with me.

As you can see, it is not the sort of job that can be done in a day or two but will require several days. I think it might help matters along wonderfully if you could get me launched at Carbon Hill. It occurred to me also that if it could be arranged for me to live in a private home there it might help me to become acquainted more quickly, that is if the people in this home were the kind who could and would be helpful. No hurry about that, however.

I will probably arrive somewhere between the 20th and 25th of September and, of course, will let you know more definitely before I reach Alabama. I rather imagine I will come to Montgomery first and then go north to Carbon Hill. For your information, in case you wish to make any arrangements before I get to Alabama, I will be accompanied by Mrs. Pryor who takes notes and performs similar chores for me on trips like this.

I think this will be a good story for all of us if we can do a good job on it and I hope we can. Incidentally, I like your idea for the photo story on the plight of the southern farmer and hope that it can be worked out.


William C. Pryor, Chief
Photographic Section
Information Service

William C. Pryor/mf

introduction | slide show | documents
A New Deal for Carbon Hill, Alabama
n e w   d e a l   n e t w o r k