Cotton Tenants: A Discussion with John Summers, Adam Haslett, and Daniel Thomas Davis
The origins of James Agee’s and Walker Evans’s famed prose symphony about three farming families in Alabama at the height of the Depression, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, date back to an unpublished assignment for Fortune magazine in 1936. Fifty years after Agee’s death, a trove of his manuscripts uncovered a typescript labeled “Cotton Tenants,” the pages of which reveal the 30,000-word report. Published for the first time with thirty of Walker Evans’s photos, Cotton Tenants documents the lives of three families struggling through poverty. As the novelist Adam Haslett writes in the introduction, this never before seen material from Agee and Evans represents “a poet’s brief for the prosecution of economic and social injustice,” as relevant today as it was then.
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