Queen on the Nile
These portraits are taken in Camden, Alabama at a home on Broad Street just blocks from the center of town. The Federal style houses were built in the 1840’s and have broad front yards and property and barns in the back for livestock and gardens. The photographs were taken on Halloween, of children Trick-or-Treating. Some come from as far as 20 miles away. Camden is the largest town in Wilcox, County the poorest county in the state, and it is 38 miles from Selma. Arthur Rothstein and Marion Post Wolcott photographed in Gee’s Bend across the river from Camden in 1937 for the FSA. Rothstein photographed Artelia Bendolph, whom he often referred to as Queen on the Nile.
Camden was the locus for important civil rights activities, across the river from Gee’s Bend a community isolated in the curve of the Alabama River. In 1964 Martin Luther King traveled across the river by ferry from Camden to Gee’s Bend to encourage the descendants of slaves to vote. The ferry was closed in reprisal and didn’t re-open until 2006.The reopening of the ferry was a result of efforts of white community leaders who regretted their 1964 decision to have it closed.
The 2010 census lists the median income for a family as $22,100 and one out of four households has a female head with no husband present.
On Halloween children get to be what they want to be, a gorilla, a hooded ninja, a convict, a sparkle fairy princess before they grow up and find that these things mean something else. Siblings in this community care for younger family members, carrying them around this night. The children who go to different schools, blacks to the public school and whites to the private schools all trick or treat together and know each other in a way that is unique to small southern towns. On Halloween, the night is beautiful, safe and idyllic in a way that only a small town can provide.