Around 1960 Charles White's iconic drawing Harvest Talk was reproduced as a postcard in the Soviet Union.
Charles White’s “Harvest Talk,” was a majestic representation of two agrarian workers, two men, somewhat relaxed as they take a break (on account of the task of sharpening the scythe held by one man), and amply demonstrates White’s distinct and profound embrace of social realism aesthetics. The scythe in “Harvest Talk” was unmistakably evocative of the sickle, as in the emblem of the hammer and sickle as a symbol of proletarian solidarity that was first adopted during the Russian Revolution, which coincidentally took place around the time of White’s birth in 1918. Symbolically, the hammer stood for the proletariat and the sickle for the peasantry, combining to represent the alliance of the workers and the peasants, necessary for the pursuance of socialism.
Other readings flowed from White’s sickle/scythe associations. The sickle/scythe was of course the indispensable farm tool used for the harvesting of grain crops, and the hammer (when used in conjunction with an anvil) was the tool with which the sickle/scythe was sometimes sharpened, in order to preserve its effectiveness. Further, the hammer represented industry, the sickle agriculture – the two means by which an independent socialist country would economically advance and feed itself. Within White’s Harvest Talk, put-upon and much-exploited African-American sharecroppers are reborn as noble, majestic farm workers. Such were the nuances that flowed from White’s prominent use of the scythe, in this piece, that it was in many respects an inevitable choice for a postcard emanating from the Soviet Union. Indeed, the hammer and sickle symbol appeared in the upper left corner on the reverse of the postcard.
Another Charles White postcard, emanating from East Germany, featuring Young Worker was published around the same time as this postcard of Harvest Talk.