Locating the spot

For Ross’s striking, probably impromptu filmed portrayal of poor blacks in Depression–era America (see On the spot) no definite location can be established. Passages in the referenced travel account of Ross’s son Ralph Colin provide a plausible pointer for the scene.

In January 1939, the Ross family drove their Mercedes-Pullman limousine from New York City along Route 1 in the direction of Florida. But after having followed a sizeable stretch of the route and its monotonous tourist archictecture of motels and drive-in restaurants they decided, after leaving Richmond, Virginia, to change to a smaller highway. This smaller Ocean Highway (or Highway 17) led them through the east coastal areas where they passed through natural scenes and towns and villages that Route 1 keeps drivers from seeing. Ralph’s response to what he saw along the way is suggestive of the abovementioned filmed scene when he writes: “The Negro settlements in the Carolinas have left a lastingly horrible impression on me. I would never have believed that there was so much poverty in rich America.”

Nico de Klerk

Ralph Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Fernverkehsstraße Numero ‘I’. In: Von Chicago nach Chungking: Einem jungen Deutschen erschließt sich die Welt. Berlin: Die Heimbücherei, John Jahr; 1941; 70-71.

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