Untitled (Lange’s typewritten caption / notes for her photograph of “Ma Burnham”)
June 28, 1938
Ink on paper
Gift of Paul S. Taylor
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California.
My father was a Confederate soldier. He give his age a year older than what it was to get into the army. After the war he bought 280 acres from the railroad and cle
My father was a Confederate soldier. He give his age a year older than what it was to get into the army. After the war he bought 280 acres from the railroad and cleared it. We never had a mortgage on it.
In 1920 the land was sold and the money divided. Now none of the children own their land. It’s all done gone, but it raised a family. I’ve done my duty—I feel like I have. I’ve raised 12 children—6 dead, 6 alive, and 2 orphans…
* * * * *
Then all owned their farms. The land was good and there was free range. We made all we ate and wore. We had a loom and wheel. The old settlers had the cream. Now this hill land has washed. And we don’t get anything for what we sell. We had two teams when this depression hit us. We sold one team—we had to to get by—and we sold 4 cows.
* * * * * In 19 and 35 we got only 50 and 60 cents a hundred pounds for picking, and in 19 and 36 only 60 and 75 cents, and we hoe for 75 cents a day. Then the government reduced the acreage and where there was enough for two big families now there’s just one. Some of the landowners would rather work the cotton land themselves and get all the government money. So they cut down to what they can work themselves, and the farming people are rented out. They go to town on relief—it’s a “have to” case. Sharecroppers are just cut out.
Then the Lord taken a hand, and by the time He’d taken a swipe at it there was drought and army worm. I don’t know whether that drought was the Devil’s work or the Lord’s work—in 3 days everything wilted.
Folks from this part has left for California in just the last year or so. My two grandsons—they were renters here and no more—went to California to hunt work. Those who have gone from here…
If you see my grandsons in California tell ‘em you met up with Ma Burnham of Conroy, Arkansas.
June 28, 1938