American workers and the hardships they have endured are well documented
in the Library's online collections. In
"America from the Great Depression to World War II," images from the Office of War Information and Farm Security Administration are among
the most famous documentary photographs ever produced. Created by
a group of photographers working for the U.S. government, the images show Americans
in every part of the nation. In the early years, the project emphasized
rural life and the negative impact of the Great Depression, farm
mechanization and the Dust Bowl. In later years, the photographers
turned their attention to the mobilization effort for World War
The most famous of these photographs is by Dorothea Lange, from
1936. Its formal title is "Destitute Pea Pickers in California.
Mother of Seven Children. Age Thirty-two. Nipomo, California," but
it is more familiarly known as "Migrant
Other "work" collections include "By
the People, for the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943,"
which consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original
posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
In "American Life
Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940,"
you can listen to interviews
with workers, such as anguished packing house worker Jim Cole, who
was refused membership in the union:
"I'm working in the Beef Kill section. Butcher on the chain. Been in the place 20 years, I believe. You got to have a certain amount of skill to do the job I'm doing. Long ago, I wanted to join the AFL union, the Amalgamated Butchers and Meat Cutters, they called it, and wouldn't take me. Wouldn't let me in the Union. Never said it to my face, but reason of it was plain. Negro. That's it. Just didn't want a Negro man to have what he should. That's wrong. You know that's wrong."