Events, Exhibits, North Carolina Collection, Photography, Southern Historical Collection, Special Collections

Exhibit Examines Use of Photography To Depict Poverty in North Carolina

The Poor Among Us: Photography of Poverty in North Carolina
North Carolina Collection Gallery, Wilson Library
June 10 – Sept. 30, 2010

Communities in Action
Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library
July 16 – Oct. 16, 2010

An exhibit of nearly 100 items in UNC’s Wilson Library examines the use of photography to depict poverty in North Carolina, particularly in the 1960s. Other eras are also represented.

The exhibit, The Poor Among Us: Photography of Poverty in North Carolina, will be on view through Sept. 30 in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, on the second floor.  A large component of the exhibit, Communities in Action, will be open through Oct. 16 in the Southern Historical Collection, on the fourth floor.

The exhibit includes photographs and related newspapers, brochures, film footage, and artifacts.

The Battle Against Poverty: Writing a History of the North Carolina Fund

Program with Robert Korstad and James Leloudis, authors of To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America.

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Wilson Special Collections Library
5 p.m. Reception and exhibit viewing
5:45 p.m. Program
Free and open to the public
Program information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library,, or (919) 962-4207

Learn more

The majority of the photographs are the work of Billy Barnes, public relations director of the North Carolina Fund from 1963 through 1969. Governor Terry Sanford established the fund in 1963 to address the problem of poverty in the state. As part of his work, Barnes photographed aspects of the fund’s programs and activities, as well as the North Carolinians whose lives it sought to improve.

Other photographs are drawn from the works of Don Sturkey and Jerome Friar. Sturkey was chief photographer for the Charlotte Observer until his retirement in 1989, after 34 years with the paper. Friar was an independent photojournalist with a special interest in documenting social and economic issues in the American South.

Barnes, Sturkey, and Friar have all donated their negative collections to the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library.

Communities in Action features twelve photographs and a small selection of documents related to three of the eleven local community action agencies established under the North Carolina Fund. They are: W.A.M.Y. Community Action, Inc., serving the mountain counties of Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey; Operation Breakthrough in Durham; and CADA, the Choanoke Area Development Association.

The local agencies enabled community members to organize and operate their own programs, such as a cooperative grocery store in Durham and a W.A.M.Y. health care referral association staffed by local women who provided information to their neighbors. All three agencies covered by the display are still in operation.

For information about The Poor Among Us and Communities in Action, contact Wilson Library at or (919) 962-3763.

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