1939, Bush FSA Photos

Initially created as the Resettlement Administration (RA) in 1935 as part of the New Deal in the United States, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was an effort during the Depression to combat American rural poverty.

The FSA stressed “rural rehabilitation” efforts to improve the lifestyle of sharecroppers, tenants, very poor landowning farmers, and a program to purchase sub-marginal land owned by poor farmers and resettle them in group farms on land more suitable for efficient farming. Critics, including the Farm Bureau, strongly opposed the FSA as an experiment in collectivizing agriculture — that is, in bringing farmers together to work on large government-owned farms using modern techniques under the supervision of experts. After the Conservative coalition took control of Congress it transformed the FSA into a program to help poor farmers buy land, and that program continues to operate in the 21st century as the Farmers Home Administration.

The FSA is famous for its small but highly influential photography program, 1935–44, that portrayed the challenges of rural poverty.

All of the FSA photos viewed on this site were taken in January 1939 by Arthur Rothenstein. Rothenstein, was a New Yorker, with a Jewish upbringing in the 1920’s and 1930’s, who believed in the strength of the working class and organized labor. He didn’t, however, always feel comfortable in some of the environs that he found himself in while taking his pictures.

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(Extracted from Wikipedia; “A Southern Illinois Album” by Herbert K. Russell, 1990)