This blog documents the movement of myself and thousands of bales of South Carolina cotton from Aiken, Bennettsville, and Columbia, SC to Shanghai, China.
My documentary “Cotton Road” follows the production cycle of a global agricultural commodity through the stories of US farmers, migrant laborers, cotton merchants, Chinese textile workers, and consumers, illuminating the global trade in cotton and the connection between workers in the United States and China. At the nexus of this story of labor, economics, and consumerism is a small cotton seed, planted in a field in South Carolina in late spring. Though the story originates in a cotton field, it culminates at a discount store with the sale of mass produced cotton clothing. “Cotton Road” travels from farm to factory to reveal this industrial story: planting and harvest, mechanized ginning, the transportation of 420,000 bales through the port of Savannah and across the ocean to Shanghai. Once in China, cotton bales are conveyed to factory cities, transformed from bale to textile, from textile to product and exported as cotton commodified into clothing, back to the American South.