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A New Deal for the Arts:
The Activists

Migrant farmer family

"Children in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer in an open field. No sanitation, no water. They come from Amarillo, Texas."
Dorothea Lange depression photoBy Dorothea Lange, (detail), November 1940.

During 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.

Never before - or since - has the U.S. government so extensively sponsored the arts.

But the 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.

But much 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:

Depression photo of boy in abandoned building
From the "One-Third of a Nation" series, New York City
By Arnold Eagle and David Robbins, 1938

New 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.

Source: U.S. National Archives & Records Administration

also see in Photography-> Photography History

More about Depression-era photography around the Web:

Documenting America - 1939-1944

A Photo Essay on the Great Depression

Worth a Thousand Words: Depression-Era Photographs



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