In 1967, the sociologist Elliott Liebow brought us an unflinching look into a culture mired in a cycle of poverty and crime. Spending 18 months on a corner in the inner city of Washington D.C., he gave us human portraits of the unemployed and underemployed African-American men who hung out there daily. The resultant book, “Tally’s Corner,” would go on to sell over a million copies and can be found on undergraduate reading lists across the country.
Eighteen years later, that corner culture was found to be very much the same, except with even bleaker and more dangerous undertones. David Simon, the long-time Baltimore Sun reporter and television producer of the critically acclaimed series “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Wire” and current HBO series “Treme,” teamed up with former homicide detective Ed Burns to spend nearly three years on the intersection of Fayette and Monroe Streets in West Baltimore.
Detailed in their book “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood,” which was later made into an HBO miniseries, they observed a neighborhood devastated by the booming drug trade and escalating war on drugs. And through the lens of one particular family — addict Fran Boyd, her ex-husband and fellow addict Gary McCullough, and their drug dealing teenage son DeAndre — Simon and Burns showed just how difficult it was to escape the boundaries of the neighborhood, with daily tragedies and few resources to find better opportunities.
We returned a few weeks ago to the West Baltimore neighborhood profiled in “The Corner” to see how the jobs crisis has affected those living in the inner city. While there, we checked in with a few of the central characters from Simon and Burn’s book: Gary McCullough died of a drug overdose during the writing of “The Corner” and son DeAndre eventually escaped the drug game and has been working as an editor outside of Baltimore. But Fran still remains in her hometown and we met up with her to see how life has changed since she was made an icon of inner city life.