Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Comentation On Let Us Now Praise Famous Men :: essays research papers
It was in 1936 that James Agee and Walker Evans, on assignment for Fortune magazine, drove into rural Alabama and entered the world of three families of white tenant farmers. And it was in this same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his second term as president, his New Deal having won the resounding support of American voters. Fortune was not unique in its concern for the tenant farmer; Roosevelt himself appointed a Committee on Farm Tenancy to investigate the situation of this segment of the nation's farming population. The committee's startling report, issued in February of 1937, revealed that tenant farmers constituted half of the farmers in the South, almost a third of farmers in the North, and a fourth of Western farmers. These figures, accompanied by reports of great suffering and stark poverty, led to the enactment of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenancy Act, which reorganized the Resettlement Administration as the Farm Security Administration, and which included amo ng its purposes assisting enterprising tenants in becoming landowners. Agee and Evans examined the life of the tenant farmer as closely as the president's committee, but from the perspective of artists, not New Deal politicians or economists. Proposing no economic solutions to the problem of tenant farming, they attempted only to describe the life of the Gudgers, the Woods, and the Ricketts as accurately as possible "in its own terms." Nevertheless, the result of Agee and Evans' endeavors, a book entitled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, is, as much as the New Deal itself, a great experiment in addressing the issues of social responsibility and human dignity that faced the United States during the 1930s. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in 1932 because he recognized the need for an innovative approach to the U.S. economy. Financial institutions, including the banking system and the stock market, had been thoroughly undermined along with American confidence, and had miserably failed to recover on their own, as Hoover had promised. The methods that had been used to bring the economy out of a slump in the 1920s were simply not working anymore, and the casualties of depression were rapidly mounting in a frightening new world. As Roosevelt recognized that traditional plans for economic recovery could not end the Depression, so Agee and Evans knew that traditional methods of photography and journalism would not work to convey accurately the hard and simple lives of the tenant farmers.