The Great Depression in Black and White
The Photography of Dorothea Lange
Images and text (Lange’s original) from Shorpy Historic Photo Archive <www.shorpy.com>
July 1938. Sorting tobacco on the porch near Near Douglas, Georgia. The program to
eliminate the risk and uncertainty of a one-crop system meets the approval of this
sharecropper: "You don't have to worriate so much and you've got time to raise somp'n to
July 1937. "Sharecropper family near Hazlehurst, Georgia." Nitrate negative by Dorothea
Lange for the Resettlement Administration.
November 1936. "American River camp, Sacramento, California. Destitute family. Five
children, aged two to seventeen years."
March 1937. "Water supply: Open settling basin from the irrigation ditch in a California
squatter camp near Calipatria."
May 1937. "Mother and child of Arkansas flood refugee family near Memphis, Texas. These
people, with all their earthly belongings, are bound for the lower Rio Grande Valley, where
they hope to pick cotton."
March 1937. "Men on 'Skid Row.' Modesto, California."
June 1938. "Butter bean vines across the porch. Negro quarter in Memphis, Tennessee."
June 1938. Outskirts of El Paso, Texas. "Young Negro wife cooking breakfast. 'Do you
suppose I'd be out on the highway cooking my steak if I had it good at home?' Occupations:
hotel maid, cook, laundress."
August 1936. "Part of an impoverished family of nine on a New Mexico highway. Depression refugees from Iowa. Left Iowa in
1932 because of father's ill health. Father an auto mechanic laborer, painter by trade, tubercular. Family has been on relief in
Arizona but refused entry on relief rolls in Iowa to which state they wish to return. Nine children including a sick four-month-
old baby. No money at all. About to sell their belongings and trailer for money to buy food. 'We don't want to go where we'll be
a nuisance to anybody.'"
August 17, 1936. Blythe, California. "Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside.
They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. The official at the border
inspection service said that on this day, 23 carloads and truckloads of migrant families out of the
drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through from Arizona entering California."
July 1937. "Thirteen-year old sharecropper boy near Americus, Georgia."
June 1937. "Wife and child of tractor driver. Aldridge Plantation, Mississippi."
June 1935. "Children of Oklahoma drought refugees on highway near Bakersfield,
California. Family of six; no shelter, no food, no money and almost no gasoline. The child has
August 1936. "People living in miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma."
California, March 1937. "Toward Los Angeles."
December 1935. "Resettled farm child. From Taos Junction to Bosque Farms project, New
November 1936. Arvin migratory farm workers' camp in Kern County, California. "Tom
Collins, manager of Kern migrant camp, with drought refugee family."
August 1936. "Migrant cotton pickers at lunchtime. Near Robstown, Texas."
November 1936. Eighty-year-old woman living in squatters' camp on the outskirts of
Bakersfield, California. "If you lose your pluck you lose the most there is in you -- all you've
got to live with."
July 1936. Washington, Pennsylvania. "Old age."
November 1936. "Daughter of migrant Tennessee coal miner. Living in American River camp
near Sacramento, California."
July 1937. "Louisiana Negress."
February 1939. Calipatria, Imperial Valley. Car on siding across tracks from pea packing
plant. Twenty-five year old itinerant, originally from Oregon. "On the road eight years, all
over the country, every state in the union, back and forth, pick up a job here and there,
traveling all the time."
July 1939. "Ten-year-old son of tobacco sharecropper can do a 'hand's work' at harvest time."
Seen here feeding logs into the fire next to flue of the curing barn. Granville County, North
July 1939. "Negro tenant farmer reading paper on a hot Saturday afternoon. Note vegetable
garden across footpath. Chatham County, North Carolina."
July 1939. "Grandson of Negro tenant farmer whose father is in the penitentiary." Granville
County, North Carolina.
July 1939. Shoofly, North Carolina. "Tobacco field in early morning where white
sharecropper and wage laborer are priming tobacco."
March 1937. Stalled in the Southern California desert. "No money, ten children. From
October 1939. The Unruf family. Mennonite wheat farmers from Kansas, now developing a
stump ranch in Boundary County, Idaho. The mother, father and hardworking 15-year-old
son with other children in yard before the barn. Father and son have cleared 30 acres of raw
stump land in three years.
July 1939. "Noontime chores: feeding chickens on Negro tenant farm. Granville County,
March 1937. "Unemployed family from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, camped on a river
bottom near Holtville, California."
July 1939. "Tobacco sharecropper's house. White family. Rural rehabilitation clients.
Whitfield family. Near Gordonton, North Carolina."
August 1939. Agricultural migrants. "Family who traveled by freight train. Toppenish,
Washington. Yakima Valley."
July 1939. "Zollie Lyons, Negro sharecropper, home from the field for dinner at noontime,
with his wife and part of his family. Note dog run. Wake County, North Carolina."
July 1939. Gordonton, N.C. "Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note kerosene
pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. Rough, unfinished timber posts have
been used as supports for porch roof. Negro men sitting on the porch. Brother of store
owner stands in doorway."
August 1936. Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Sequoyah County drought farmers. "Nothing to do," said
one of them. "These fellers are goin' to stay right here till they dry up and die."
July 1936. Hill House, Mississippi. "Sharecroppers' families gathering needs for their Fourth
of July celebration, whites and blacks together."
A farm child whose family resettled on the Bosque Farms project in New Mexico.
February 1939. "On U.S. 99 between Bakersfield and the Ridge, en route to San Diego.
Migrant man shaving by roadside."
February 1939. Calipatria, Imperial Valley. Farm Security Administration emergency migratory labor camp. Daughter of ex-tenant farmers on thirds and
fourths in cotton. Had fifty dollars when set out. Went to Phoenix, picked cotton, pulled bolls, made eighty cents a day. Stayed until school closed. Went to
Idaho, picked peas until August. Left McCall with forty dollars "in hand." Went to Cedar City and Parowan, Utah, a distance of 700 miles. Picked peas through
September. Went to Hollister, California. Picked peas through October. Left Hollister for Calipatria for early peas which froze. Now receiving Farm Security
Administration food grant and waiting for work to begin. "Back in Oklahoma, we are sinking. You work your head off for a crop and then see it burn up. You
live in debts that you can never get out of. This isn't a good life, but I say that it's a better life than it was."
July 1936. "Old-time Negro living on a cotton patch near Vicksburg, Mississippi."
October 1939. "The Fairbanks family has moved to three different places on the project in
one year." Willow Creek area, Malheur County, Oregon.
March 1937. Migratory Mexican field worker's home next to pea field. Imperial Valley,
June 1938. Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. Family walking on highway, five children. Started
from Idabel, bound for Krebs. In 1936 the father farmed on thirds and fourths at Eagleton,
McCurtain County. Was taken sick with pneumonia and lost farm. Was refused relief in
county of 15 years' residence because of temporary residence elsewhere.
June 1938. In Memphis, hundreds of colored laborers congregate near the bridge every morning at daylight in hopes of work
chopping cotton on a plantation, where they are taken by truck. Reduced acreage has made employment scarce for this class of
seasonal labor in all towns. "You can't live the commonest way on six bits a day. Not alone nor no way. A man like me can't get
no foothold. It's a mighty tough old go. The people here in the morning are hungry, raggedy, but they don't make no hungry
June 1938. Nettie Featherston, wife of a migratory laborer with three children. Near
Childress, Texas. "If you die, you're dead – that's all."
Fourth of July 1939 near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rural filling stations become
community centers and general loafing grounds. Cedargrove Team members about to play in
a baseball game.
July 1939, Person County, North Carolina. Wife and child of tobacco sharecropper. The
littlest girl comes in from outside for something to eat while Mother is doing her housework.
The child next to the baby is called in this country the "knee baby."
August 1939. Migratory children living in "Ramblers Park." They have lived on the road for
three years. Nine children in the family. Yakima Valley, Washington.
Coldwater District north of Dalhart, Texas. This house is occupied; most of the houses here
have been abandoned.
August 1936. Family between Dallas and Austin, Texas. The people have left their home and
connections in South Texas, and hope to reach the Arkansas Delta for work in the cotton
fields. Penniless people. No food and three gallons of gas in the tank. The father is trying to
repair a tire. Three children. Father says, "It's tough but life's tough anyway you take it."