America from the Great Depression to World War II: Color Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1939-1945
Arts & Humanities
A unit of instruction on the Depression era and the World War II can be enhanced with musical and literary resources. Students can use these resources in conjunction with the collection to increase their understanding of the American experience.
- Songs: "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime;" "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones"
- Fiction: My Wartime Summers by Jane Cutler, Purely Rosie Pearl by Patricia A. Cochran, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Nonfiction: The FDR Way by Jeffrey Morris, A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II by Ellen Levine
- Poetry: "Depression" and "The Last Good War - and Afterward" by Isabel Joshlin Glaser; The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg
- Speech: Fireside Chat of December 9, 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Persuasive Writing and Speech
Explain to students that President Roosevelt's New Deal was a program established to help end the Depression. The Farm Security Administration was founded as part of the New Deal to help farmers purchase equipment. It was just one of many agencies organized to help rural and urban Americans. Ask students to write a short speech supporting or opposing the establishment of the FSA or another New Deal agency. Encourage students to select photographs from the collection to use as visual evidence in support of their position. Allow time for each student to give his or her speech.
Story Boards for a Docudrama
Docudramas often make use of still photographs as visuals. Have students select a topic about which they will prepare a three-minute docudrama. They might consider topics such as "Farming the Land" or "On the Home Front." Students can work in groups to choose photographs that illustrate their topic, write the copy for the narrator of the docudrama, and prepare the story boards. If possible, students might use a video camera to shoot their docudrama. They could use some live reenactment scenes by playing roles while dressed in period costumes.
During World War II, letter writing kept families connected although they were physically apart. Men and women in the military avidly looked forward to mail from the home front. Parents, spouses, children, and even strangers wrote to the military personnel providing news about the everyday life back home. Students can select a photograph and imagine they are one of the individuals in the picture. Encourage them to write a letter to someone overseas describing the day-to-day life at home.
Students can examine photographs depicting rural areas in the 1930s and 1940s to gain an understanding of what life was like. They can review pictures of social gatherings, laborers in the field, housing, and crops to help them set the stage for a one-act play, a poem, a short story, or an essay about living and working in rural areas.