Soul Food Supper

Cotton Pickers, Thomas Hart Benton, 1945

Cotton Pickers, Thomas Hart Benton, 1945

The American regionalist Thomas Hart Benton painted Cotton Pickers based on notes of a trip he made to Georgia in the late 1920s. He depicted the dignity of the cotton pickers in the face of backbreaking labor and intense summer heat, rendering the dry fields and the working bodies in a sinuous, curvilinear style. For his time, Benton held progressive views on race, social relations and politics and he believed ardently that African-American history was central to the understanding of American culture. Cotton sharecropping, a system of tenant farming that developed after the Civil War, allowed landowners to rent land to poor farmers in return for a share of the crops. Because sharecropping kept agricultural laborers impoverished, it became a symbol of a racially and economically unjust system. Cotton cultivation became one of Benton’s most important subjects, especially as the rapid industrialization of the nation during World War II changed the American landscape.

Anne and I went to the annual soul food supper at the high school tonight. This event is held every February, in honor of Black History Month. This year is the 15th anniversary dinner. We’ve been going to this event ever since Dan and Dave went to school there. Tonight’s menu included: fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, mashed potatoes, candied yams, corn bread, mac & cheese, ham & beans and rounding it all out, sweet potato pie. It was all good and everyone there knew Anne’s name.

It would be as dishonest as padding the word count of a blog post and about as useful as a 401(k) for a dog, to spook chickens to lay square eggs. Any big-headed baby, who is bound for college-scholarship gravy knows that.

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