This is my tenth and last photo essay dedicated to Charles Farrell's photographs of fishing communities on the North Carolina coast in the 1930s and '40s. I think it's time to talk about what happened to him, and why he and his photographs were forgotten for so long.
When I was in Southport several years ago, I carried Charles Farrell's photographs to an old menhaden fisherman named Charles “Pete” Joyner. At the time, Mr. Joyner was 93 years old.
At the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, I found a remarkable collection of oral history interviews from the North Carolina coast during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
I discovered another forgotten chapter in eastern North Carolina's history while I was exploring the Farm Security Administration (FSA)'s photographs at the Library of Congress-- it is a story about the migrant farm workers that harvested the region's crops in the 1930s and '40s.
ENFIELD, N.C., 1930. Another letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also got my attention for its look at eastern North Carolina life in the throes of the Great Depression.
In the late winter or early spring of 1938, a photographer named Charles Farrell visited Colington, an old fishing village on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Today Colington is surrounded by condominiums and resorts, but at that time Farrell discovered only a quiet, out-of-the-way settlement with perhaps 200 or 300 residents divided between two small islands, Little Colington and Big Colington.