in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer
in an open field. No sanitation, no water. They come from
By Dorothea Lange, (detail), November 1940.
the depths of the Great Depression and continuing for for
11 years, between 1933 and 1943, tax dollars helped employed
artists, musicians, actors, writers, photographers, and dancers.
before - or since - has the U.S. government so extensively
sponsored the arts.
arts projects also sparked controversy. Some politicians believed
them to be wasteful propaganda and wanted them ended; others
wanted them expanded. Such controversy, along with the United
States' entry into World War II, eventually killed the projects.
of what they fashioned has survived through the efforts of
museums, libraries, and the National Archives and Records
Administration, which have provided these images in continuing
and important effort to preserve America's past:
From the "One-Third of a Nation" series, New York
By Arnold Eagle and David Robbins, 1938
Deal photographers were instrumental in exposing the human
pain of the Great Depression to a wider audience. Their images
of rural and urban poverty, which were sometimes manipulated
for political and artistic effect, laid bare the economic
exploitation of farm workers, uncovered poor living conditions
in city tenements, and put a human face on the Depression.
Their photographs remain some of the most compelling visual
documents of the era.