American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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The Forgotten People

Supply Object Title
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
"On these workers the crops
of California depend . . . March 1, 1935."
and "More Oklahomans reach Calif. . .
Apr. 7-1935"

Sketchbooks with gelatin silver prints
and ink notes, 1935
Prints and Photographs Division

Sketchbook #1:
Memorandum report
Map of California Rural Rehabilitation Division
To harvest the crops (USZ62-69109)
Date pickers home (USZ62-1184)
"If I could earn $4.00 a week"
All races serve the crops in California
Irish Americans
Squatters Camp of Texans

Sketchbook #2:
Map of California
Memorandum page1
Memorandum page2
Memorandum page3
Over this bridge ...
"Yes sir, born and raised in the state of Texas" (USZ62-69106)
One hundred feet from the Yuma Bridge
Carrot pullers of .../ The hope of work
Cleanliness - a struggle (USZ62-1182)
"What bothers us travellin' people ..."
"We haven't had to have no help yet"
"It seems like God has forsaken us"
"How about that Townsend plan?"
"Lots left ahead of us ..."

When they met in November 1934, photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) and economist Paul Taylor (1895-1984) made a formidable team of advocates for improving living conditions of migrant laborers. Their illustrated reports provided clear accounts of the systemic causes of the problems and the need for governmental response. Lange herself selected, cropped, printed, mounted, and captioned the photographs in the reports. Her captions incorporate the very words of the people pictured, telling their own stories.

Armed with these forceful reports, H.E. Drobish, director of California's Rural Rehabilitation Office of the Emergency Relief Administration, stated in his request for federal funding to build housing camps for workers:

"These laborers stand at the foot of the socioeconomic scale in our state....These are the `forgotten men, women, and children' of rural California but on these people the crops of California depend."
Between 1935 and 1943, Lange and other top-caliber photographers hired by Roy Stryker of the Resettlement Administration produced what was to become the world's best-known photographic survey, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) collection. These report albums came to the Library of Congress as part of that collection when it was transferred from the FSA in the 1940s.

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