Migrant Workers in the Great Depression

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FC: Migrant workers of the Great Depression | BY: Elizabeth Aleo, Savannah Costa, Emily Curley, and Tatianna Hunter

1: What is a Migrant Worker? | In the 1930s, droughts and the Great Depression created a culture of laborers who traveled from place to place harvesting crops as they ripened. Migrant farmworkers tended to be either newly arrived immigrants or individuals forced to leave their farms in the Dust Bowl.

3: Documentary photographer Dorothea Lange chronicled the Depression, here capturing two migrants hitchhiking their way to Los Angeles in 1937. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

4: Cons: Migrant workers had a lonesome and harsh life with insubstantial wages. They lived and worked in poor, crowded conditions. When people flooded to California farms, they found that there wasn't the abundance of work they had imagined. Many didn't have housing and were forced to live alongside the fields, where disease spread easily. | Cons of the Migrant worker | Migrant Workers in their hard conditions on the farmlands

5: Pros: Migrant workers tended to form very strong family ties. The uncertainty of the job led them to rely on their close family and friends. To get by as a migrant worker, they quickly learned a respectable work ethic. Though wages were poor, laborers were sometimes compensated in food so they were usually guaranteed at least one meal a day and most were able to put a roof over their head. | Pros of the Migrant worker | A single migrant worker mother raises her seven children

6: An abandoned farm house in the Dust Bowl.

7: Life in the Dust Bowl | In the summer of 1931, a harsh drought occurred in the Southern Plains area. The rain disappeared, crops withered and died, and by 1933 there were more than 34 dust storms per year. Living in the Dust Bowl became impossible, but 3/4 of the people refused to leave. Their resilient spirit became a characteristic of this time period.

9: A giant dust storm blackened out the sky in Goodwell, Oklahoma during the dust bowl of 1931. The Dust Bowl brought ecological, economical and human misery to America during a time when it was already suffering under the Great Depression.

11: For eight years dust blew on the southern plains. It came in a yellowish-brown haze from the South and in rolling walls of black from the North. The simplest acts of life — breathing, eating a meal, taking a walk — were no longer simple. Children wore dust masks to and from school, women hung wet sheets over windows in a futile attempt to stop the dirt, and farmers watched helplessly as their crops blew away.

13: Philipinos cutting lettuce, Salinas, California, 1935. Photographer: Dorothea Lange. In order to maximize their ability to exploit farm workers, California employers recruited from China, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the American south, and Europe.

15: Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California Dorothea Lange, 1936. This photo depicts worry, anxiety, and the misery of the migrant workers. This picture taken by Dorothea Lange was part of a New Deal project to document the misery of migrant workers, sponsored by the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. "Migrant Mother" is one of the most-cited pictorial images of our times.

17: In one of the largest pea camps in California. February, 1936. by Dorothea Lange.

18: A family of Mexican migrant workers outside of their shack in the 1930's California. They spend their time outside thinking what other jobs they could do, or find, in order to bring in money so they can support their family of seven. Even if it means living in a poorly constructed shack for their Bosses.

19: Living Conditions inThe Farms of California | In California, many of the migrant workers lived in small, unsanitary houses. By the 1930's, at least three quarters of California's 200,000 farm workers were Mexican or Mexican American migrant workers. In California, the migrant workers worked up to 12 hours a day, at a minimum of 6 days a week. Even small children were included in these long hour work days. The migrant workers were not allowed to leave the state of California, unless given permission by their employers.

20: At a Farm Labor Camp for Mexicans at El Rio near Oxnard, California, Mexican fruit pickers perform in 1941.

21: Singing and making music took place both in private living quarters and in public spaces. There were many folk songs and others that speak of hardship, disappointment, and a deeply cherished wish to return home. In addition to songs and instrumental music, the migrants enjoyed dancing and play-party activities. The California Folk Music Project (1938-1940), conceived and directed by Sidney Robertson Cowell, was intended to be a representative collection of folk music being actively performed in Northern California. It was sponsored to be a part of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. The project was one of the earliest attempts to document the performance of English-language and non-Black, non-American Indian, ethnic folk music in the United States.

23: Fliers like this one were distributed in areas hard hit by unemployment, advertising a need for farm workers in the Southwest and California.

24: Typed and attached to the back of the photo: "Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pipkin. C.T. at Presto Recorder....sweating. Mrs. P. was a gold mine of old English ballads. Many thought of her as a prototype of "Ma Joad" in the "Grapes of Wrath". F.S.A. camp in Shafter, California."

25: The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was one of many New Deal programs created during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to respond to the Great Depression. The function of the FSA was to provide assistance to the rural poor and migrant agricultural workers. Today, the FSA is well known for the body of documentary photographs produced through its photographic section by photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Charles L. Todd, Robert Sonkin, and Arthur Rothstein. | The Farm Security Administration

26: The growers called called on the police and formed armed vigilante squads, which shot down 11 strikers, killing two. But the strikers resisted and held picket lines in front of the jail to demand freedom for the arrested strike leaders. In one farm, about 100 workers invaded the fields and drove off all the strikebreakers.

27: The Cotton Strike | In October 1933, migrant farm workers refused to pick the 1933 crop for only $0.60 per hundred pounds offered by growers. This was a four week strike that involved 12,000 to 18,000 workers. Growers immediately evicted strikers from grower-owned labor camps, a tactic that backfired as striking workers moved into tent camps organized by the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, reinforcing the strikes effectiveness. A politically ambitious federal relief official, George Creel, compromised with both growers and migrant workers to agree on $0.75 per hundred pound piece rate.

29: Racism was still prevalent during this time period. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the sign on the bubbler reads: "Reserved for Colored Only."

31: Living Conditions were difficult for the migrants once they headed west to the over populated state of California in search of work. However, they formed communities and stuck together through the harsh times.

33: During the time of the Great Depression there was a tremendous influx of people in California, who all came in search of labor. Many people had trouble getting passed the border control officials because of the over population

34: A photo of a Mexican migrant worker who immigrated to the US with the hopes of finding cheap labor

35: During the 2nd World War, Mexican migrant workers could legally work in agriculture in the US under the "Bracero", which was a guest worker program. However, when this program was terminated illegal immigration exploded as more and more illegal immigrants migrated into the US

37: The US Immigrant Reform and Control Act was passed in 1986 and it stated that “illegal immigrants that could demonstrate 60 days of employment in agriculture since 1985 were awarded permanent residence”.

39: "The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Mexican immigrants especially hard. Along with the job crisis and food shortages that affected all U.S. workers, Mexicans and Mexican Americans had to face an additional threat: deportation. As unemployment swept the U.S., hostility to immigrant workers grew, and the government began a program of repatriating immigrants to Mexico.

40: Okie: a migrant worker, usually from Oklahoma

42: Migrant Workers Camp in Farmersville, California

43: Promised Land: the area of California where the workers thought had better conditions but instead were just as bad as what they were used to

44: Grower's Association: what controls the wages and working conditions for the migrant workers

45: Tin Lizzie: Ford car Cheaters: glasses Pill: difficult Plonk: cheap wine Plugged Nickel: something worthless Pooch Out: stick out Abyssinia: "I'll be seeing you" Trip for Biscuits: easy task | 1930's Slang

46: -In hot water -Blow their stake -Bustin' a gut -Live off the fatta the lan' | Worker's Slang

47: Pioneer Tradition: giving the poor food and sending them away Hoovervilles: camps that housed poverty-stricken families

48: Squatter Camps

50: Young Migrant Worker's Funeral

51: Migrant Workers' Children

53: Migrant Workers

55: A Mexican American migrant worker working in a field, in Arizona in 2011. Migrant working children begin to work in the fields at the age of 13 for employers for less than minimum wage.

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