Art, Collections and Resources, Exhibits, Photography, Special Collections

Photo Exhibit Depicts Mississippi Life, 1920s – 1970s

Photograph of Pruitt Studio employees

Pruitt Studio employees, ca. 1920s.

The Life of a Southern Town: Images of Columbus, Mississippi from the Pruitt and Shanks Photographic Collection
Wilson Special Collections Library
Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room
Through October 1, 2013

Photographs depicting daily life in the city of Columbus, Miss., are on exhibit in the Wilson Special Collections Library through Oct. 1, 2013.

The Life of a Southern Town: Images from the Pruitt and Shanks Photographic Collection highlights 41 photographs made from the 1920s through the 1970s. The images on view include historic Antebellum homes that line the city’s streets; a scene from a riverside baptism during the 1930s; and a photograph of African-American farmer Sylvester Harris, who became the subject of a 1935 song, “Sylvester and his Mule Blues,” after a phone conversation with President Franklin Roosevelt saved him from foreclosure.

O.N Pruitt and Calvin Shanks were commercial photographers in the city of Columbus and the surrounding areas of Lowndes County. Pruitt bought the sole photography studio in Columbus in 1920 and ran the business until 1960, when he sold it to Shanks, his assistant. Pruitt died in 1967 and Shanks ran the studio until his own death in 1981.

A massive archive of some 140,000 items from the Pruitt and Shanks studio came to the UNC Library in 2005.

The Library has made a notable sampling of photographs available online as part of the Digital Southern Historical Collection and continues to digitize additional images from the collection.

Also on view in the exhibit is a selection of 60 artifacts and manuscript items from Columbus.

Life of a Southern Town is in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room on the third floor of Wilson Library. Hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 – 5 p.m. Sundays.

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