Depression Era Radical Novels
Depression Era Radical Plays
Depression Era Humor in Cartoons and Satire
Depression Era Novels about Displaced Farmers Published
before the Appearance of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
Era Novels about Displaced Farmers Published before the Appearance of
Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
Dust Bowl photographs from the manuscript
collection of Margaret Bourke-White.
A selection of material on migrant labor in New York
State from the manuscript collection of Central New York social activist
Prudence Wayland-Smith (1908–95).
||“Grace Lumpkin is among the very few proletarian writers
who do not begin with an assumption that a strong belief in a cause
excuses any amount of careless writing about it” (Robert Cantwell,
“No Landmarks,” Symposium 4, no. 1 [January 1933], 81).
|“The Cock’s Funeral is a story of farm workers
in America. These are the beaten, the uneducated, the writhing mass
of people who can be driven no further down in life. They have reached
the limits of human endurance and, at last, are fighting for their
lives. Because of their subjection, they are born into the world vulgar,
unwashed, and ignorant. If their language and habits offend, it is
not their shame, but America’s” (Ben Field, The Cock’s Funeral
[New York: International Publishers, 1937], 8–9).
“The heat increased; dust storms eddied about the knoll,
which grew balder every day in the wind. The cottonwood turned yellow
prematurely...not a robust
fall gold, but a gray, sickly hue. There was grit on the floor of the
house, and in the cupboards on the dishes, in the dresser drawers...grit suspended in the air. It roughened their skins and stung
their eyes and tore at their throats. There was grit in their mouths when
they ate” (Dorothy Marie Davis, “Dwellers in the Dust,” Direction
1, no. 7 [July/August 1938], 10).
“Everybody knows about John Steinbeck’s Joads, the ‘Okies’
of ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ who followed the harvest in California in a grim
effort to keep body and soul together. Through the printed page and the
screen the Joad family a few years ago roused nationwide concern over
the West Coast’s migrant farm worker problem. New York newspapers sent
reporters across the continent to travel from crop to crop with the ‘Okies’
and ‘Arkies’ and send back feature stories on conditions in the farm labor
camps. What the New York papers did not seem to know was that they need
not have gone so far afield. Stories on migrant farm workers were available
in their own state. They still are.
||“The Imperial Valley lettuce fields, harboring some
of the worst labor conditions in California, has [sic] been
the scene of so many struggles during the past eight years, all of
increasing violence, that the growers prepare for the picking season
by organizing their terror in advance. Organization among the workers
prior to any protest or demand must be carried on with the utmost
secrecy. Underground tactics must be resorted to which can be compared
only to the conditions prevailing in Fascist Germany. Any worker participating
in the organization of a union is eligible to arrest. As far back
as 1930, seven workers were railroaded to San Quentin and Folsom prisons
for no other act than seeking to organize the agricultural workers”
(Michael Quin, “Blood on the Lettuce,” New Masses 10, no. 4
[23 January 1934], 11).
Migrant Committee party for children of the Willows Migrant Camp
in Vernon, N.Y., in August 1959 at the Attic House Farm.
||“In 1944, there were more than 400 camps for farm workers
operating in New York State. Some of these were temporary camps especially
set up or protected under the state and federal governments’ war manpower
programs for workers imported from the West Indies or for members
of the Student Farm Corps and Women’s Land Army, recruited from within
the state from among high school and college students or city vacationists.
But the majority were permanent camps—permanent in the sense that
they reopen from year to year to house ‘pickers’ brought in from near
and far to help get the beans, peas, tomatoes, celery, corn, and other
products of New York’s rich soil from the fields to the larder” (“How
They Live,” The Joads in New York [New York: Consumers League
of New York, January 1945], 5).
Floral artwork (1967) by Penny Chapman from the Sherrill Migrant Summer