American South: The Front Porch

visual narrative exploring porch culture and southern storytelling

August 2015


 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara


"Southern literature is often celebrated for its "told," rather than "written," qualities."

The Power of the Porch 

The Storyteller’s Craft in Zora Neale Hurston, Gloria Naylor, and Randall Kenan by Trudier Harris


Kei Orihara

Kei Orihara

    Kei Orihara

    Kei Orihara

Constantine Manos

Constantine Manos

     Kei Orihara

     Kei Orihara

  Kei Orihara

  Kei Orihara

 

 

"The South's milder conditions mean its residents spend more time out and about. "Those porches were there for a reason. That's where it all started."

Taylor Robinson, a founder of Birmingham-based, The Moth inspired Arc Stories, praises the impact of Southern storytelling. 

"In the South, stories are almost like a currency. We share stories in trade for other stories. And there's nothing like sitting down and listening to a great storyteller just do their thing," he said."

Excerpt from Is Storytelling Inherently Southern?

 

 


                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas


"The oral songs and rhymes of these sidewalk games are a special part of children's folklife. Black youth typically learn sidewalk songs from other children. But they also learn them from their parents often before they can talk. Once in the children's repertoire, sidewalk songs take the place of nursery rhymes and reflect pre-adult concerns. Children then learn them from each other in the street, on the front porch, on the sidewalk, or in the park."

Excerpt from African American Oral Traditions in Louisiana


 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara


"I remember the very day that I became colored."

Excerpt from How It Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston


          Stephen F. Somerstein

          Stephen F. Somerstein

 

"Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.

The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me.

My favorite place was atop the gatepost. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn't mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I'd wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: "Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin'?"

Excerpt from How It Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston

 


 Alex Webb

 Alex Webb

 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara


"Keep the front door opened but the screen door locked!"


                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas


"But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all."

Excerpt from How It Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston


                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas

                  Susan Meiselas


            Robert Sengstacke Abbott

            Robert Sengstacke Abbott

 

 

 

"Donlon discusses porch culture as a place where gender, race, and class are performed and negotiated. For women, Donjon notes, the porch is a place of work and leisure. The same front porch can be place where one snaps beans in the morning and dresses to formally greet passersby in the afternoon. 

For men, it is most often a space of  "socializing and relaxation" after a day of working from home in the public sphere (p. 114). For young people, the porch is a place to be alone, yet not unchaperoned, when courting. Donlon also delves into the dichotomy between the front porch, as a public space, and the back porch, when a family had one, as the place for private gatherings and housework."

Review of Swinging in Place: Porch Life in Southern Culture 

by Jocelyn Hazelwood Donlon

 

 

 

Photographer Unknown

Photographer Unknown


"The people all saw she her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment."

Ruby Dee reads from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
 


  Kei Orihara

  Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara

 Kei Orihara


"I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries."

Excerpt from How It Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston


Alex Webb

Alex Webb

Alex Webb

Alex Webb

A. Abbas

A. Abbas