Please click on images to pull up enlarged versions



Both of these images appear to be more like snapshots than composed photographs, which gives them an authentic air. Together they provide a great contrast for each other. Two sides of white paternalism; the one stern and authoritative, the other unceremonious and able to enjoy itself.

The sober scene, captioned "John Kirk maintaining the law and checking up on a Saturday night in the Negro quarter of Belle Glade, Fla.," features the somewhat menacing figure of John Kirk, flashlight or baton in hand, sharing a mildly antagonistic gaze with several patrons of this jook joint. The startled look in the eyes of several of the men who face the camera, and the expression on the face of the figure just to the left of Kirk indicate to us that we have come upon a moment of some tension. The woman, who appears so carefree and amused in the happy scene, stands with her body language and gaze indicating her attention is waiting on Kirk's next move. The image is fraught with pressure.

In contrast, the tone of the happy scene is upbeat and playful. The figure of authority, not Kirk but some other law enforcement officer, appears to be joking around with the woman, who is clearly tickled by some crack either she or the cop has just made. The image conveys as much about the atmosphere of jook joints, (emotionally unrestrained, happy-go-lucky), as it does about the relationship between cop and patrons. The danger of the photograph lies in the central image of the woman, grinning and clapping her hands. I am reminded of the descriptions in The Florida Negro of large groups of Negroes, just standing around being happy and care-free.

The happy scene is captioned, like so many of the other jook images, "juke joint and bar in the Belle Glade area, vegetable section of south central Florida." Why Marion would give the sober scene a quite descriptive title and the happy scene a vague one is unclear. Oftentimes she was hardpressed to come up with captions for images she had taken months before, as all the various places she had visited melded into one in her memory. The difference in captioning led these two images to be filed under different categories (one under entertainment, one under law enforcement) in the FSA file in the Library of Congress. One would not put the two together automatically unless one searched the secondary file, by lot number, where images are organized by the assignment in which they were taken. If Marion did not see the impact of the images as related, this was reinforced by the way they were later organized.

It is worth nothing that the figure leaning out the door in the happy scene is the same man who appears behind the bar in Image 6 . Does that imply that these photographs were taken at the same jook joint, one inside and two outside?




Juliet Gorman, May 2001


When you've checked out all the photographs, you may want explore the history of Belle Glade, the area where they were taken. 

You also might want to fill in your reading with some background on what jook joints are about.