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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Great Depression to World War II

[Detail] Migrant agricultural worker

The Forgotten Man

Virtually the entire collection may be seen as a study of and tribute to people neglected by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historians who focused almost solely on political history. These photographs express a renewed interest in the "Forgotten Man" and provide a starting point for understanding the beliefs of the people who embraced and recreated that figure in the thirties and forties. Projects and discussion may be based on a comparison of how different people and organizations defined and used the "Forgotten Man" during this era. One example is found in the Special Presentation of a series by Gordon Parks documenting the life of a Washington D.C. charwoman.

Looking at photographs from the collection or at the Parks series with your students, consider the following questions:

  • What makes someone a "Forgotten Man"? Why is he/she celebrated?
  • What do Parks's photographs tell us about Mrs. Watson? Why did Parks take so many photographs of Mrs. Watson?
  • Why might the FSA/OWI photographers have been interested in the "Forgotten Man"?
  • Who else was interested in the "Forgotten Man" during this decade? Beyond this decade?