Deanna Leamon
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Hamlet Series
Hamlet Statement

On September 3, 1991, a fire erupted at a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, N.C. A cloud of toxic black smoke filled the plant. With only one of nine exit-doors unlocked, workers were trapped inside. Twenty-five people were killed. Fifty-six people were injured. Imperial Food Products, who owned the plant, had had the doors locked to keep the employees from stealing chickens. From the outside, trapped workers could be heard trying to escape, banging on locked doors screaming, “Open” the door. Let me out.”
These drawings are based on what happened to the people at the Imperial Food Products plant. The images do not aim to illustrate the tragedy, but rather to give visual form to the people who suffered and died as a result of this fire. The images may serve to remind us that these people were real people, not abstractions or statistics.
What happened to these people is a particularly sobering example of racism, sexism and discrimination generally, of letting economic motives lead human values, issues we all confront at the end of the Twentieth Century.