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Details - Leavin' a Testimony

Cover of Leavin'a Testimony


Portraits from Rural Texas

Focus on American History Series
Don E. Carleton, editor

University of Texas Press
327 pages, 7 x 9 7/8 inches
109 duotones
ISBN 978-0-292-71305-5
hardcover with dustjacket

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"This is a shocking, powerful, moving, disturbing, ultimately hopeful book. We all stand in debt to Patsy Cravens for having the imagination, the determination, the skill, and the heart to capture this almost-forgotten portion of the past and preserve those fragile memories that could so easily have been lost. They are now, thanks to her, a permanent part of our state's history."
—from the introduction by John Boles, Professor of History at Rice University and editor of the Journal of Southern History

First settled by Stephen F. Austin's colonists in the early nineteenth century, Colorado County has deep roots in Texas history. Mainly rural and agrarian until late in the twentieth century, Colorado County was a cotton-growing region whose population was about evenly divided between blacks and whites. These life-long neighbors led separate and unequal lives, memories of which still linger today. To preserve those memories, Patsy Cravens began interviewing and photographing the older residents of Colorado County in the 1980s. In this book, she presents photographs and recollections of the last generation, black and white, who grew up in the era of Jim Crow segregation.

The folks in Colorado County have engrossing stories to tell. They recall grinding poverty and rollicking fun in the Great Depression, losing crops and livestock to floods, working for the WPA, romances gone wrong and love gone right, dirty dancing, church and faith, sharecropping, quilting, raising children, racism and bigotry, and even the horrific lynching of two African American teenagers in 1935. The Colorado County residents' stories reveal an amazing resiliency and generosity of spirit, despite the hardships that have filled most of their lives. They also capture a rural way of life that was once common across the South, but is now gone forever.

Patsy Cravens is a photographer, artist, writer, and video producer in Houston. Some of her photographs have been displayed in the traveling exhibition, "Colorado County Memories: Everyone Has a Story to Tell." She also wrote and produced an award-winning oral history documentary called Coming Through Hard Times, which was based in Colorado County and has appeared on PBS.