Dorothea Lange is most widely known for a single photograph, Migrant Mother. That portrait of a troubled farmer surrounded by her three children is an iconic image that represents the tragedy of the Great Depression. She made the picture while working for President Roosevelt's Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration). Lange was the first of eleven photographers to join the RA, a New Deal agency whose purpose was to document the plight of the rural poor and the government's efforts to assist needy farmers. Lange was drawn to hands and feet as subjects that were both specific to an individual and representative of larger themes of human suffering and endurance; this barefooted young woman picking cotton with dangling mule whip in tow perfectly summarizes the cruel serfdom of tenant farming. This print was once owned by Richard Wright-author of the novel Native Son (1940) and the autobiographical memoir Black Boy (1945)-and was intended for publication but never included in his 1941 book 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States. By combining New Deal photographs with his words, Wright intended to trace the history of African-Americans from slavery, through emancipation, sharecropping, and northern migration, to the joblessness and racial prejudice of the mid-twentieth century.
Inscription: Typed inscription, verso TC: "Alabama plow girl, near Eutaw, Ala. // Juen [sic] 1936"; printer's inscription in pencil, verso C sideways: "9270-E"; erased printer's inscription in pencil, verso C sideways: "9328 e"; government stamps in ink, verso TR, BL both sideways: "[in box] PLEASE NOTE: Kindly Return Unused Photos // to the Division of Information, // Farm Security Administration, // Washington, D.C.", "PLEASE CREDIT // F.S.A. // FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION // PHOTO BY: LANGE"; dealer's inscription in pencil, verso TRC, sideways: "8758"
Farm Security Administration, Washington, D.C.; Richard Wright; [Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 37".
This photograph was selected by Richard Wright for his publication 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (New York, The Viking Press, 1941). The photograph, however, did not run in the book but was saved by the author with all the other published photographs.
This print is from Library of Congress negative LC-USF34 9270 E.
See also: Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Farm Security Administration (FSA) # 8b29591