Deep South: Picturing Race and Power

In Southern states, Lange discovered a different kind of farm work than the migrant labor she had seen in California. Tenant farmers lived and worked on land owned by a landlord—a system that exploited its workers. In response, Lange made photographs that exposed racial and economic power relationships in the Jim Crow South. Lange’s insistence on revealing the racist roots of poverty drew criticism from her government employers at the Farm Security Administration. Instead of focusing on white poverty as instructed, she chose to capture images that showed how people of all races are trapped in an unjust system.

What was it like to be a slave? When it’s midnight and it’s raining and he say go—you go. — Formerly enslaved person speaking to Dorothea Lange