Photographs showing struggles of farming families in South Carolina, ca. 1930s
South Carolina farms began to experience hard times in the 1920s, as the boll weevil decimated cotton crops and the one crop system led to widespread depletion of soil nutrients and erosion. After the stock market crashed in 1929, farmers increasingly left their farms and unemployment became more widespread. To help farmers (including migrant farm workers) and sharecroppers, the federal government devised programs like the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which was established 1937. As a division of the Department of Agriculture, the FSA worked to set up camps for migrant farm workers, loans and assistance for farmers, and other agricultural improvements. The FSA also hired photographers to travel around the country to document the lives of the rural farmers. These photographs illustrate what life on a farm was like in the 1930s, through black cotton pickers, a sorghum mill near Summerville, a white family stringing tobacco in Manning, and the effects of erosion on a farm in Enoree District, near the Sumter National Forest.
“Cotton pickers in field.” Photograph. (5065.49) South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
“Sorghum mill.” Photograph. (WPA-T-AFS-1) South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
“Stringing tobacco, sharecropper family, near Manning, 1939, photography by Marion Post, Farm Security Administration.” Photograph. (WPA-T-AT-8) South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
U.S. Forest Service. “Farm house amid eroded land, Enoree District of Sumter National Forest, photograph by B.W. Muir.” Photograph. (WPA-T-AE-10) South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.
Indicator 3-5.4 Explain the impact and the causes of emigration from South Carolina and internal migration from the rural areas to the cities, including unemployment, poor sanitation and transportation services, and the lack of electricity and other modern conveniences in rural locations.
Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.
Indicator 5-4.2 Summarize the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, including economic weakness, unemployment, failed banks and businesses, and migration from rural areas.
Standard 8-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s development during the early twentieth century.