Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

By James Agee

Words from the achiever

“When people ask me what’s a favorite book that I’ve ever read, I used to say Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, who went in to a little remote area in Alabama during the Depression years, got a grant from I think the WPA (Works Projects Administration) or something, and wrote about the lives of people who lived in desperate poverty, and how they dealt with the exigencies of life, the challenges, the disappointments of life, and still had a coherent family environment. And the photographs in the book by Walker Evans are just works of art. That book is one of my favorites as well. It showed me that the experiences of our neighbors were not unique, that there were people all over the country who suffered. It happened that all the families he analyzed in great depth during the Depression years were white families. We still have people like that living in our country. What impressed me with that book was the tremendous chasm between people who have everything, who have a house and a job and education and adequate diets, and a sense of success or security, who want to do good things, and the vast array of people still in our country who don’t have any of these things, and whom we seldom, if ever, know. That book, among other things, woke me up to the fact that we still have people like this next door, and we are not doing much about it.”

About the book

A unique study of tenant cotton farmers in rural Alabama during the Great Depression.