The Leland Post Office mural, “Ginnin’ Cotton” by Stuart Purser, is oil on canvas, mounted on paperboard, and was completed 1940 (Smithsonian American Art Museum). Purser’s design was the winning submission for Mississippi in the 48-state mural competition. Purser was born in Alaska in 1907, but grew up in Louisiana (purser studio.com). He would be invited to establish the Fine Art Department at the University of Mississippi in 1949, and would remain there until 1952 (David Magee, 2009, The Education of Mr. Mayfield: An Unusual Story of Social Change at Ole Miss).
As noted in earlier posts about the New Deal murals, Contemporary Realism and Regionalism were generally the only accepted styles for the art work. Purser is said to have pushed the boundaries just a little with “Ginnin’ Cotton” although it met the criteria as local agriculture.
Purser continued to paint the struggles and life of African Americans in his art in later years as well (purserstudio.com).
Fazio, Parrish, Blackwell, & Franks, in the 1979 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places described the post office building that housed Purser’s work:
Colonial Revival…granite steps…cast-iron railings…1-story wide limestone frieze…wooden cornice…octagonal wooden cupola with louvered minor sides…
The building showcases the wooden entry vestibule common to this particular design.
One of 32 post offices constructed in Mississippi with Public Works Administration funds, Louis A. Simon was the supervising architect.