There are things about the American South, things born of inequality and contrast, pain and poverty, ugliness and decay, that I only knew from words, not from my heart.
I want you to see the two South Carolinas, two American Souths, that I am getting to know
and the juxtaposition that is both stunning and moving.
The very, very rich. The very, very poor.
On the one hand the slow and elegant beauty of the plantations, the huge houses of the merchants in Georgetown, built in the 1700s and still owned and kept immaculately
by the wealthiest citizens.
On the other hand, lives of extreme poverty and ugliness.
I've never been immersed in the contrast between Black and White that exists here.
Traveling a few blocks in town or a few miles out into rural areas, you plunge down the social scale and drop back 75 years in time.
* * *
Just up Hwy 51, Hemingway was built in the early 1900s when cotton was king and there were plenty of jobs for Black farmers. When the boll weevil appeared on the scene in 1921, tobacco tried to take cotton's place, along with a few small textile industries that flourished for a while and provided some jobs to former farm workers. Now even those jobs have gone to Mexico and Vietnam and China and there are only 500 people left in Hemingway, most of them African-Americans.
Hemingway stands like hundreds of small towns in the rural South
with the same fate, in a time warp, its citizens living as they always have, without jobs,
while the world has passed them by.
The small travel trailer behind the abandoned dairy truck is someone's home.
Trailers are the most common form of housing in the rural areas and many of them are ancient and collapsing, with the ubiquitous blue tarps for roofs.
Families have lived here for generations, from slave times. At Emancipation, freed slaves were deeded a piece of land to farm. Now farming is gone and the land has filled up with the trailers of four or five generations of their descendants. Called "heirs property," today each piece is owned jointly by every single descendant of the original owner, whether they live there, pay taxes, or have never set foot on it.
Listed as one of the main industries in Hemingway, in the center of town,
is Don's Car Crushing.
Lots of junked construction equipment and in the foreground, a dentist chair
A hearse awaits its turn in the crusher amidst piles of crushed materials, a chute that takes the parts to large containers on the right, to be loaded on ships or railroad cars and recycled.