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Northern Swing: 1938

Northern Swing: 1938

November 1938. "Public Works Administration housing project (Logan Fontenelle Homes) for Negro families. Omaha, Nebraska." Acetate negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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Bob Gibson

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson was born in Omaha in November 1935, and lived in the Logan Fontenelle housing project. He was the youngest of seven children, so there may be one or more Gibson children in this picture.

Public Housing Museum

A building from a similar housing project in Chicago, Jane Addams Homes, also built in 1938, is being turned into the National Public Housing Museum.

Repeated history

The Logan Fontenelle Housing Project has an illuminating Wikipedia page:
This part jumped out at me: "In 1969 riots erupted after an Omaha police officer fatally shot teenager Vivian Strong near the Logan Fontenelle Project. Riots began after Walter Cropper, the judge at the preliminary hearing, found the shooter, Officer James Loder, not to be criminally liable for the shooting."

The site was demolished in the early 1990s, and replaced with "lower density housing," which at the time was apparently considered more humane and less prone to contribute to crime. The concept of higher density housing is now getting popular again, though.

Focus on shoes

The still center of all the blurry action is, for me, the pair of feet in the shoes with two buckles, situated underneath the swing with two boys on it. I love all the smiling faces, but the two shiny shoes, side by side, anchor it all. Does Vachon know what he’s doing while he’s doing it, or does he sometimes look at his photos afterwards and go, “Well, I’ll be”?

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