A migrant worker camp in Texas. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
Jim Norris’ wife cans food for the winter. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940. Library of Congress
Children line up to go to school, which, in their town, is held in the Farm Bureau administrative office. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
Four children cross the streets. Washington, D.C. Circa 1941-1942.Library of Congress
A young woman does the laundry in a communal tub, shared with the other members of her camp. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
Small children play with sticks, pretending they are guns. Washington, D.C. Circa 1941-1942.Library of Congress
The living quarters and the “juke joint” in a migrant worker camp. Belle Glade, Florida. February 1941. Library of Congress
In the 1930s, the U.S. Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) sent out a group of America’s best photographers to document the Great Depression. They took some incredible photographs that revealed how the people of America were living through one of the darkest periods in the country’s history.
A young girl leans against the barbwire fence around the migrant worker camp where she lives. Yakima Valley, Washington. August 1939.Wikimedia Commons
A dust storm moves in on a family living in the Dust Bowl. Stratford, Texas. April 18, 1935.Wikimedia Commons
A railroad worker covered in dirt and soot after a long, hard day of work. Chicago, Illinois. December 1942.Library of Congress
A child sits in the cabbage patch, helping his parents work on the farm. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
A young girl stands by a fence, a doll in her hand. Location unspecified. Circa 1941-1942.Library of Congress
The shelters inside the migrant worker camp. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
Men at work on the boiler of a train. Chicago, Illinois. December 1942.Library of Congress
The child of migrant workers sits in her new home, struggling to adjust to her changing life. New Mexico. December 1935Wikimedia Commons
A family eats dinner inside of their dugout home. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
In the gallery above, these photos come to life in vivid color. Pulled out of a black-and-white wash that makes the 1930s seem like some distant past world unconnected to our own, these color images (some originally in color, others colorized later) shine with all the vibrancy of real life and give the feeling of what it was like to actually live through the Great Depression.
Sharecroppers chop up cotton under the hot Georgia sun. Greene County, Georgia. June 1941.Library of Congress
Color Photos That’ll Make You Glad You Didn’t Live Through The Great Depression
Boys sitting on a truck in a migrant worker camp. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
Boys gather around to play marbles in the camp. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
Boys fishing in the bayou. Schriever, Louisiana. June 1940.Library of Congress
Four children sleep sharing a single bed. McIntosh County, Oklahoma. Circa 1939-1940.Library of Congress
But not only were these F.S.A. photographs documents of hardship, they were also works of art that, today, stand as some of the best-known photos in American history.
The dugout home of Jack Whinery and his family, who live off of what they grow in their garden. Pie Town, New Mexico. September 1940.Library of Congress
A little girl and her mother sit on the porch of their home. Natchitoches, Louisiana. August 1940.Library of Congress
Crowds scavenge through the surplus, looking for something that they can use. St. Johns, Arizona. October 1940.Library of Congress
These photos captured every part of daily life, showing families at home, at work, and at church. Every hardship of the era was brought to light.
Photographers in the prairies captured the areas where sandstorms tore farmlands apart and left people to starve through harsh droughts. Likewise, these photographers captured the homesteaders, those who lived in dugouts, mostly-underground homes and had turned to living solely off of what they could grow.
Migrant workers on the back of a truck, headed to the next job. Mississippi. Circa 1940.Library of Congress
A migrant worker traveling around America to pick peas sits with her children. Nipomo, California. 1936.Wikimedia Commons
Jim Norris, a homesteader living off the land. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
A square dance held inside a rural home. McIntosh County, Oklahoma. Circa 1939-1940.Library of Congress
School children singing. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
A bar and a gas station in a town of sharecroppers and plantations. Melrose, Louisiana. June 1940.Library of Congress
A boy in a migrant work camp makes a model airplane while the girl next to him watches. Robstown, Texas. January 1942.Library of Congress
A family of sharecroppers, who live their lives paying off their debt to a white plantation owner, sit on the porch of their home. Natchitoches, Louisiana. August 1940.Library of Congress
Jack Whinery and his family. They are homesteaders, who live in a half-underground dugout home, living off of what they grow. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
A young boy shows off a bike he bought with his own money. Michigan Hill, Washington. August 1939.Wikimedia Commons
A little boy helps his mother pick cotton. Clarksdale, Mississippi. November 1939.Library of Congress
The light slips into the roundhouse of a railroad yard. Chicago, Illinois. December 1942.Library of Congress
A broken down shack that serves as home for an African-American family of migrant workers. Belle Glade, Florida. February 1941.Library of Congress
Children stand in front of their tenement home. Brockton, Massachusetts. December 1940.Library of Congress
Children play near the schoolhouse. Kansas. Circa 1942-1943.Library of Congress
A family travels toward California in search of work after their life in Missouri was devastated by drought. Tracy, California. February 1937.Wikimedia Commons
A homesteader stands in front of his home. Pie Town, New Mexico. September 1940.Library of Congress
Then there were the sharecroppers: poor tenants, most of the black, who were forced to live on rented properties where they had no choice about what they could grow. These people were forced into a life that wasn’t altogether different from slavery in order to pay off their heavy debts.
Children sit on the ground to eat barbeque with their parents. Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940.Library of Congress
A family stands in front of their home, a shack on the outskirts of town. Klamath Falls, Oregon. September 1939.Wikimedia Commons
People share some of their surplus with each other. St. Johns, Arizona. October 1940.Library of Congress
Next, check out these photographs of the Great Depression’s effect on New York and African-Americans. Then, have a look at some of the most incredible World War II photos in their original full color.
A store advertises that it has live fish for sale. Natchitoches, Louisiana. July 1940.Library of Congress