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Introduction - The RA and the FSA
Rex Tugwell (Wikimedia Commons)
In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7027, which consolidated several farm programs into the Resettlement Administration (RA). The Resettlement Administration was the brainchild of Rexford Tugwell, an economics professor at Columbia University, who became an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt during his campaign for the presidency in 1932. Tugwell subsequently became the RA's first head.
One of the primary goals of the RA was to take millions of acres of land that had been exhausted by deforestation, over-farming, and drought and move farm families into government-owned planned communities, including model farms and greenbelt towns. Farmers were guided by government experts who helped them implement modern farming methods on arable land. The RA worked with nearly 200 communities on its projects, including Greendale, Wisconsin, located outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Greenhills, Ohio, the third of the RA's new towns, built near Cincinnati.
Another RA project involved building camps for migrant workers, especially those from the Dust Bowl of the southwest. The RA constructed almost 100 camps that gave the workers clean living accommodations and water, as well as other amenities.
In 1937, Congress passed the Farm Security Act, which absorbed the RA into a new organization, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which operated until 1942. The staff of the FSA ultimately numbered 19,000 and operated in almost 2,300 counties nationwide.
Roosevelt's agricultural policy had been to decrease production and increase prices of farm products. However, this strategy often left tenant farmers without adequate income to pay rent. As a result, the resettlement program eventually failed because many farmers wanted money to purchase their own farms rather than continue to rent government lands. The Agriculture Department did not have such an aid program, so Congress demanded that the FSA help. The Farm Security Administration then evolved into an agency that helped nearly 12,000 tenant farmers purchase farms with funds from the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.
The RA and the FSA may be best known for the influence of their photography project, which sought to portray the lives of poor people, especially farmers. This project was responsible for the emergence of documentary photography and made famous such photographers as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.
America 1935-1946: the photographs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration, and the U.S. Office of
arranged by region and by subject. (1980). Teaneck, NJ: Somerset House.
Bauman, J. F. (1988). In the eye of the Great Depression: New Deal reporters and the agony of the American people. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.
Berger, M. (1985). FSA: the illiterate eye: photographs from the Farm Security Administration. New York: Hunter College Art Gallery.
Curtis, J. (1989). Mind's eye, mind's truth: FSA photography reconsidered. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Daniel, P., Foresta, M., Stange, M., & Stein, S. (1987). Official images: New Deal photography. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Evans, W. (1975). The years of bitterness and pride: Farm Security Administration photographs, 1935-1943. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Finnegan, C. A. (2003). Picturing poverty: print culture and FSA photographs. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Fleischhauer, C., & Brannan, B. W. (Eds.) (1988). Documenting America, 1935-1943. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hendrickson, P. (2004). Bound for glory: America in color, 1939-43. New York: Abrams.
Kidd, S. S. (2004). Farm Security Administration photography, the rural South, and the dynamics of image-making, 1935-1943. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.
Lesy, M. (2002). Long time coming: A photographic portrait of America, 1935-1943. New York: Norton.
O'Neal, H. (1976). A vision shared: A classic portrait of America and its people, 1935-1943. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Stange, M. (1989). Symbols of ideal life: social documentary photography in America, 1890-1950. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Steichen, E. (Ed.) (1962). The bitter years 1935-1941: rural America as seen by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
Stott, W. (1973). Documentary expression in thirties America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stryker, R. E., & Wood, N. C. (1973). In this proud land: America 1935-1943 as seen in the FSA photographs. New York: Graphic Society.
Online resourcesAmerica from the Great Depression till WWII: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fsowhome.html
The Documentary Eye
Every Picture Tells a Story: Documentary Photography and the Great Depression
The People's America: Farm Security Administration Photographs
University of Kentucky Art Museum: Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project
USDA Historical Photos
Walter W Stiern Library: Farm Security Administration Photographs
Wesleyan: DAC Photographs: Farm Security Administration, 1935-1940