What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Photos: Life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1980s and 90s

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, people living in the Mississippi Delta, a fertile and culturally rich region in northwest Mississippi, were hit hard by an economy in decline.

Magic City, Falcon, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Magic City,” Falcon, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

The economic downturn disproportionately affected African-Americans, who make up the majority of the Delta’s population.

Riverside Lounge, Shaw, Mississippi, 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Riverside Lounge,” Shaw, Mississippi, 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

During the 1980s, automation and competition from low-wage foreign workers caused manufacturing, one of the Delta’s few economic lifelines, to fall by half across the region. Jobs were scarce. In Tunica County, one of the poorest in the Delta, unemployment reached almost 20 percent in 1986, nearly three times the national average.

The King Club, Glendora, Mississippi, 1984. Photo by Birney Imes.

“The King Club,” Glendora, Mississippi, 1984. Photo by Birney Imes.

Photographer Birney Imes is a native of Columbus, Miss and grew up in the state when it was still segregated. His work has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago and La Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

Imes spent more than 20 years wandering through the Mississippi delta region capturing images of the lives he came upon.

The Pink Pony, Darling, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

“The Pink Pony, Darling,” Mississippi, 1985. Photo by Birney Imes.

Imes told PBS NewsHour that he was attracted to a “world that was forbidden” to white residents of Mississippi.

“Growing up in the segregated South, there were– there were these separate worlds living next to one another that often intermixed,” Imes said. “And I think part of what took me to photography was the desire to explore that world.”

Turk's Place, Leflore County, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Turk’s Place,” Leflore County, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

Girl on Catfish Alley, Columbus, Mississippi, 1990. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Girl on Catfish Alley,” Columbus, Mississippi, 1990. Photo by Birney Imes.

Hermanville, Mississippi, 1981. Photo by Birney Imes.

Hermanville, Mississippi, 1981. Photo by Birney Imes.

Man with Mouthless Fish, Phillip, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Man with Mouthless Fish,” Phillip, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

Oakland Baptism, Crawford, Mississippi, 1979. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Oakland Baptism,” Crawford, Mississippi, 1979. Photo by Birney Imes.

Poochie, Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Poochie Marks,” Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

Rabbit Hunters, Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1980. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Rabbit Hunters,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1980. Photo by Birney Imes.

Smokey's Friend and Poochie, Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Smokey’s Friend and Poochie,” Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

William Robertson, Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

“William Robertson,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

Blume on his 84th birthday, April 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Blume on his 84th birthday,” April 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

Blume with Chicken, January 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi

“Blume with chicken,” January 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi

Blue and T.P., Lowndes County, Mississippi, Summer 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

“Blue and T.P.,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, Summer 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

Latest News