Caroline Vaughan

Corn Harvest Granville, North Carolina,1939 by Marion Post Wolcott

For the next few months, we will be exploring the rich history of corn in the South. One of our interns, Kensie Gaspard, came across this story of a corn shucking in Granville, North Carolina documented by Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Securities Administration. These photos show the tremendous labor required to process a corn harvest. They also give us a window into black and white relationships of the time.

In these photographs, Marion Post Wolcott captures not only the corn harvesting but the connections between communities at the Wilkins family farm in Granville, North Carolina. Her photographs of the November 1939 harvest shucking illustrate the communal effort required to sort through the mountains of corn harvested. The six photos highlighted here illustrate an age old and essential endeavor, crossing the boundaries of class and race. While caption cards provide the title and other information about each photograph, ultimately the photos tell the story.

Corn shucking on farm near the Fred Wilkins place, Marion Post Walcott Granville County, North Carolina 1939   <br />
Caption: Corn shucking on farm near the Fred Wilkins place, Granville County, North Carolina
The black tenant farmers and white men of the Wilkins family are nearly lost amid the cobs, piled high during the shucking.

Young and old, the Wilkins men all pitch in their efforts to rid the cobs of their leaves and silks.

Corn cobs fly and husks are tossed aside as the tenant farmers work through the enormous pile.

Caption: “Wooden peg used in shucking corn. Farm near the Fred Wilkins place, Granville County, North Carolina digital file from original neg.
To aid in the shucking process, this wooden peg saves the hands part of the effort required to strip the corn of its ear-leaves.

Tenants to the Wilkins, the black farmers work alongside the family to complete this task.

The husks are tossed back and the cobs forward as the men work through the mass of corn.

After the corn shucking, women and children of the Wilkins family gather around while the men eat.
Caption: Some of the Wilkins clan at dinner on corn-shucking day at home of Mrs. Fred Wilkins. Tallyho, near Stem, Granville County, North Carolina

Marion Post Wolcott photographs the black men at the table with the same respect she gave the white men in the earlier picture.
Caption: The Negro tenants and neighbors eating dinner after the white men have finished on day of corn-shucking at Mrs. Fred Wilkins’ home. Tallyho, Stem, Granville County, North Carolina

Although the black and white men have shared the labor of shucking the mountains of corn, they do not sit at the same table for the dinner after. Wolcott specifically notes that the black farmers ate after the white men had finished. The photographer, Marion Post Wolcott, however gives equal weight and attention to the black and white men in the two pictures.