Peace Studies
Lowndes County farmer Sylvester Harris with mule Jesse outside his home in Plum Grove community, February 1934.

Lowndes County farmer Sylvester Harris with mule Jesse outside his home in Plum Grove community, February 1934. 

Missouri Journalism School Emeritus Associate Professor Berkley Hudson, who has co-taught a Peace Studies course on authoritarianism and democracy for several years, has written a new book and curated a nationally traveling exhibition of photographs based on the work of Mississippi photographer O.N. Pruitt (1891-1967).

Pruitt was for some forty years the de facto documentarian of Lowndes County, Mississippi, and its county seat, Columbus—known to locals as “Possum Town.” His body of work recalls fellow Americans in circumstances ranging from the mundane to the horrific. From formal portraits to candid images of events in the moment, Pruitt’s documentary of a specific yet representative southern town offers viewers today an invitation to meditate on the interrelations of photography, community, race, gender, and historical memory.

Hudson was photographed by Pruitt, and for more than three decades he has considered and curated Pruitt’s expansive archive. O.N. Pruitt’s Possum Town: Photographing Trouble and Resilience presents Pruitt’s photography as never before, combining 194 images with a biographical introduction and Hudson’s short essays and reflective captions on subjects such as religion, ethnic identity, the ordinary graces of everyday life, and the exercise of brutal power. The  book’s publisher is UNC Press in partnership with Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

As part of the exhibit’s development, Mizzou scholars contributing to the effort include LaGarrett King, Paul Litton, David Rees, Kristin Schwain, Stephanie Shonekan, and Lynden Steele.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is a key sponsor of the exhibition. The Peace Studies Endowment is one among the Mizzou grants also supporting the exhibition, which premieres February 2022 at the Columbus, Mississippi Art Council’s Rosenzweig Art Center. 

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