The Great Depression

Overview:

The Farm Security Administration, initially known as the Resettlement Administration, was started in 1935 as a part of FDR’s New Deal Policy to relieve the effects of the Great Depression on America. This organization sought to combat rural poverty by having farmers work together on large farms under government supervision. In order to further combat the issue of rural poverty, the Farm Securities Administration began its photojournalism program in 1933. This program lasted until 1944 and it utilized the talents of several influential photojournalists such as Dorthea Lange and Walter Evans, among others.

Photojournalism is an art form where a “news story is presented primarily through photographs” with text (www.dictionary.com). Dorthea Lange and Walter Evans used superb artistic techniques in order to document the unemployed and homeless individuals during the Great Depression. As a result, they were essential individuals in the Farm Security Administration’s attempt to show the devastating effects of the Depression and drought on America’s farmers and sharecroppers. As you examine the documents found in this kit, think of the effect these images had on the public in order to answer the following question:

Question: How did photojournalism influence public opinion of the New Deal programs?

Introduction to Collection:

In this kit, you will find a variety of resources to help you answer the question “How did photojournalism influence public opinion of the New Deal programs?” The resources are divided into three categories: photographs, written documents, and audio files.

The Photographs

The photographs chosen to be in this kit were created for or by the Farm Securities Administration, Dorthea Lange, Walter Evans, and Margaret Bourke-White. The images chosen by Dorthea Lange were taken between the years of 1935-1939 and they focus on the poor and forgotten individuals forced to move West because of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

Another photographer highlighted in this collection is Walter Evans. Like Lange, Evans worked for the FSA; however, his most famous photographs were taken for a book entitled, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men written by James Agee. The photos in this collection are from that book and they detail the life of an Alabama sharecropper’s family in 1936.

The final photographer featured in this collection is Margaret Bourke-White. White worked with her husband, Erskine Caldwell, to document the social realities of the Great Depression. The pictures chosen for this collection are from her book entitled, You Have Seen Their Face.

The Documents

This kit contains nine documents of both secondary and primary sources. These documents were chosen for this kit because they will enable you to gain an understanding of various issues surrounding the Great Depression; a few documents are written by historians who are analyzing the Great Depression from a present day perspective while other documents help you to understand the thoughts and feelings of people directly affected by the Great Depression. Some of the documents are charts that detail the social conditions of the time, some documents provide overviews of the historical event, and others were written during the Great Depression to document an individual’s response to the conditions of the time.

The Audio Files

The audio files found in this kit contain music written and performed during the Great Depression in addition to individuals narrating their experiences during this time. The songs included in this kit are: Do Re Mi, Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries, Dust Bowl Refugee, and We’re in the Money. Each of the songs describes a specific aspect of life during the Great Depression. The two remaining audio files are from individuals detailing their experiences while traveling to the west in search of employment.

 


A partnership between the College of William & Mary School of Education, the University of Kentucky College of Education,
and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program