In 1937, the Van de Graaff family sold their land in Wilcox County, Alabama to the federal government, and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) established Gee’s Bend Farms Inc., a pilot project of a cooperative-based program designed to sustain the inhabitants. A health center and cooperative store and cotton gin were built, along with a new school.
The government built houses, subdivided the property, and sold tracts of land to the local families, for the first time giving the African American population control of the land they worked. A health clinic and cooperative store and cotton gin were built, along with a new school.
During this period, the community also became the subject of several FSA-sponsored photographers, including Marion Post Wolcott and Arthur Rothstein. The photographs below were taken in the health clinic in 1939 by Marion Post Wolcott.
Waiting in project clinic for examinations and treatments by doctor and nurse. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Nurse Shamburg weighing Ira Dencie Pettway’s baby in project clinic. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Nurse Shamburg is directing young girls how to make a sick bed in the photograph below.
Mrs. Daisy Lee Pettway and Rhoda Lee looking at food chart in clinic waiting room. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Clay Coleman shows interest in food chart while waiting in clinic. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Nurse Shamburg demonstrates care of baby bottles to Mrs. Paralee Coleman and Marie. Mothers have to work in field and children are left at home to care for babies. Health clinic, Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Nurse Shamburg and Dr. Dixon (R.E.) examining Susanna Pettway, whose father, Clement Pettway, has been ill for several years with tuberculosis. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Juanita Coleman, NYA (National Youth Administration) leader and teacher, helps Sally Titus preserve some eggs. Through this activity the girl has bought some badly needed eyeglasses. Gee’s Bend, Alabama
Vinegar of the Four Thieves was a recipe that was known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antifungal properties for years. It was even used to cure the Bubonic Plague. See Thomas Jefferson’s recipe in VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past