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Sarah HoskinsMy project is called The Homeplace; a visual record of people and place in a changing American landscape. I began this project with a 30 year old list of names, names of the African-American Hamlets In Kentuckyís Inner Bluegrass Region. With each visit I make I am continually told of people and peoples where "You need to go".
In the decade after the Civil War African-American settlements sprang up around the horse farms in Kentuckyís six-county Inner Bluegrass Region. Today, many of the residents are descendents of the freed men and women who founded them. In some cases as many as five generations of a family have lived in succession on a "homeplace" in these communities. Some of these hamlets are doing quite well, while others are hanging on by a thread. There are many things these hamlets share, ministers, tobacco, hog killings, friends and relatives but most importantly they share a great history. A history that is in jeopardy as development moves in. The following quote of mine appeared in American Legacy magazine in June of 2005 months before Katrina hit New Orleans. It has been picked up nationally and internationally. "African-American history has been so neglected in this country, in writing and photography. The United States as a society just hasn‘t cared enough, and a lot of African-American history has been literally bulldozed over. ... I‘m hoping my photographs will help show that we‘ve got to hurry before it‘s just too late."
I suppose many people will say, "hog killing, how barbaric" and the thing I remember most from that night is a gentle voice, "let go piggy, let go, come on pig let go" coaxing a hog to die.
How I was allowed into this group I still do not know. It seemed a club to me, all these men working as a team probably not talking as much as they normally would since I was there, me a strange white woman from the city there to photograph, most having no idea why I had come. My idea of why I had come changed that night too. I came to record hog killings, to show something that was probably going to fade away as the old men passed never knowing if their sons would carry on the traditions of their fathers.
What I found was a group of men, a sort of secret world. I saw men working together as I had never seen before and I donít think I ever will again. In a barn on a cold February night it wasnít death I felt and saw, it was the life of these men and a gentle soul coaxing a pig to die.
Sarah Hoskins (June 2007)