Children of the Depression

Children of the Depression

Edited by Kathleen Thompson and Mac Austin
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/22/2001
Format: Hardback 161 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-34031-3
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During the Depression, Roy Emerson Stryker, head of the Farm Security Administration Historical Section, hired some of the best photographers in the United States—including Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Walcott, John Delano, John Vachon, and Arthur Rothstein—to record the state of the country during its direst days. While Stryker made many demands on his photographers, he also gave them a great deal of freedom. Asking for sociology, he received great art. It is that combination which makes the FSA collection so special.

A goal of the FSA photographers was to inspire the country to care about the people the New Deal programs were trying to help. With regard to children, they were masterful. The photographs show us the young of every ethnicity living in conditions we associate today with Third World countries. Behind virtually every shot taken of a child by these remarkable chroniclers is the dream of a world in which childhood is a time of play, happiness, and safety. The reality, shown in the photographs assembled in Children of the Depression, reveals the betrayal of that dream. But the pictures also are a testament to resilience and hope.

Editors Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin have chosen images that represent different regions and ethnic backgrounds. Some pictures may challenge preconceptions about the Depression era; others will give concrete meaning to the facts and figures that we know about deprivation and hardship. Thompson and Austin use a few of the very familiar FSA photographs, in addition to many pictures that have seldom or never been published.

More than 100 black-and-white images are arranged by category, each chapter depicting a specific element of the daily lives of children. Although the photographs are the defining feature of the book, compelling quotes transcribed by social workers of the era are interspersed throughout.

Children of the Depression will appeal to lovers of

Author Bio

Kathleen Thompson is co-author with Darlene Clark Hine of A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America and co-editor with Hilary Mac Austin of The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present. She also co-authored, with Andra Medea, the feminist classic Against Rape (1974). With Diane Epstein, she co-authored Feeding on Dreams, an expose of the diet industry, published in 1994.

Thompson was a major contributor to Black Women in America and is editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia of Black Women. She has worked for the past twenty years in education and publishing and is the author of more than one hundred books for juveniles, including Portrait of America, a 53 volume set of books to accompany Turner Broadcasting’s television series of that name. She was also co-founder and, for a number of years, president of a Chicago educational development house, Sense and Nonsense, Inc.

She has received numerous awards for her work, including Best Books for Youth from the ALA in 1974 and the Gold Camera Award from the U.S. Industrial Film Festival, but the one she treasures most is the ban on Against Rape by the apartheid government of South Africa.

Hilary Mac Austin is co-editor with Kathleen Thompson of The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present. She was the photo researcher for A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America by Kathleen Thompson and Darlene Clark Hine (1996); the American Jewish Desk Reference (2000); and Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (1998).

Austin has been a writer and photo researcher for ten years, working with the Philip Lief Group; Sense and Nonsense, Inc.; Visual Education Corporation; SRA (Science Research Associates); Bantam/Doubleday/Dell; Carlson Publishing; and others. Her favorite project of the last few years was acting as technical director for a production of Hamlet in Rwanda under the auspices o


“"These children are not sidelined victims of one of this country's worst disasters. They are participants in the center of the stage. The are survivors who built what we now call the American Dream." — Washington Post This remarkable collection brings together compelling images of children taken by the most gifted of the Depression-era Farm Security Administration photographers, including Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post Walcott. Reminiscences of people who grew up during the Depression, social workers' observations—-even a child's letter to Eleanor Roosevelt—make up the accompanying text. CHILDREN OF THE DEPRESSION captures the spirit and grit of boys and girls as they went about their lives—at work, at play, at school, and at home—in images you will not soon forget. From the editors of the groundbreaking THE FACE OF OUR PAST: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present. "These photographs constitute a social history to break you heart." — Garry Wills, author of Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty and Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America”

“The photographs chosen to appear in Children of the Depression number well over a hundred. They are presented with respect and grace, and not a few are genuine heart-breakers. ”
 — RALPH: Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:


These are the Children

This is how they worked

This is how they played

This is how they learned

This is how they lived

These are their families