Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Plantation System in Southern Life (1950) -- Coronet Films

Coronet Films or Coronet Instructional Media Inc. produced and distributed American educational films (propaganda puff pieces). According to Wikipedia, founder David A. Smart "produced instructional short films aimed at young teenagers and high school students....." These films offered social guidance on topics such as dating, family life, courtesy and citizenship....with occasional educational topics such as the solar system and the human body."

The film "Plantation System in Southern Life" (1950) whitewashes the US slave system into a "happy darky" or "benevolent master" narrative. Jim Crow Apartheid gets a clean scrub with the neutral title of "distinct groups."

The contrast of the planter's wealth found in the homes of the planters versus the rows of small cabins that were occupied by the slaves. As you view these pictures you'll note that these slave cabins are still occupied in 1950. In other words, very little had changed in the south post-Civil War on many southern plantations 90 years after emancipation.

Plantation System in Southern Life (1950) - pt1


In Part 2, the narrator notes the three key crops that produced a vast amount of wealth, cotton, tobacco and sugar. The film asks "Did this plantation life influence the modern south? Can we find anything left of the plantation system?"

The film asserts that "freeing of the slaves" and the "great financial burden of the war disrupted the economic system of the south." But, here's the kicker as the narrator notes, that "the plantation system didn't entirely disappear." Then the narrator continues to assert that "the land remained. The source of labor, great numbers of Negroes (descendants of slaves) remained." And of course the obligatory cash crop of "cotton and the demand for cotton remained." And so the plantation system, the film summarizes, "the plantation system in its smaller and more modified way, still remained in 1950."

Most of the wealth still comes from cotton and most of the Negroes are still exploited and subjugated nearly 100 years after emancipation. It's as though time stood still in the south.

Plantation System in Southern Life (1950) - pt2

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