Photographs give an extraordinary glimpse into ordinary lives, and these historic images from the Library of Congress are an example. They capture pivotal moments in time for African American farm families living in Wake, Granville, and Person counties during the Great Depression. They are pieces of heritage not often seen.
“As we’ve heard the stories and as we’ve told them, we’ve created our own mental images of what it was like… the way our ancestors were feeling, what they were thinking, the expressions on their faces, what they were wearing, their physical surroundings, and even the aromas that permeated the air.”
Those words were written by local author Patricia A. Perry while tracing six generations of her own African American ancestors in rural Wake County, and they get straight to the heart of what’s special about these photographs.
The images are up close and personal. They peek into the daily routines of real, hardworking people. Some owned land, others farmed as tenants or sharecroppers. Some were grandparents, others were young mothers and fathers. Some were children already working to help their families stay afloat. The expressions, the clothing, the tools, the smiles–they’re all here.
This collection came about thanks to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was designed to assist people in rural areas as they worked to get out of debt, revitalize their farms, and get back in their feet.
To create a visual record of these changes in the lives of struggling farmers, photographers traveled the country and took pictures.
Although the people in the photographs are not often named, they played a significant role in shaping our local farms and communities. As residents, farmers, and African Americans, they made a difference in our history.