The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Possum Town

Missouri School of Journalism emeritus professor Berkley Hudson’s new book, O. N. Pruitt’s Possum Town: Photographing Trouble and Resilience in the American South, has been three decades in the making. Hudson shared a hometown of Columbus, Mississippi, with Pruitt, an outgoing, prolific photographer who lived from 1891 to 1967 and documented the city through both intimate portraits and on-the-scene snaps. “This is a photobiography of our town,” Hudson says. “And certainly, Pruitt depicts racial segregation, graphically, in street scenes, but whoever stood before his camera sat on the same bench—white people, Black people, old and young people, they were all equal before his lens.” The book, with nearly two hundred images that comprise the everyday, the frivolous, and the horrific (Pruitt captured lynchings and executions), includes Hudson’s extensive research and interviews with Pruitt’s subjects. “Now, I’m just asking people, look slowly at these pictures,” Hudson says. “See what you might learn about our collective past in the American South, and about our present and our future.”

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