Photo exhibits spotlight various topics in Florida history, and are accompanied by brief text intended to place selected materials in historical context.
Migrant Workers During the Great Depression in Florida
These images were created by the New Deal program, the Farm Security Administration (originally the Resettlement Administration) in order to document the hardships of farm workers during the Great Depression. The original images are stored in the Farm Security Administration Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
The Long Depression
The Great Depression in the United States officially began in 1929 with the Stock Market Crash. However, throughout much of the United States economic hardship had preceded the financial downturn that would engulf the entire country.
Florida's economic bubble had burst in 1926 when once readily available money and credit ran out and the Florida Land Boom came to an end.
In addition to banks no longer trusting the "paper millionaire," Florida was hit by two major hurricanes, one in 1926 and another in 1928, which dealt a severe blow to Florida's already fragile economy.
Image Number: RC02706
Image Number: RC02789
Exacerbating the state's mounting economic problems, Florida's citrus industry was devastated with the invasion of the Mediterranean fruit fly in 1929, reducing citrus production in the state by sixty percent.
At the beginning of the 1930s, twenty-six percent of Florida's population was dependent on some form of public relief.
The Great Depression brought with it skyrocketing unemployment and the dislocation of millions of workers from all walks of life. Migrant workers—often entire families—went in search of jobs wherever they could be found, adding their numbers to the thousands of seasonal workers recruited by large agricultural companies in South Florida each year during harvest time.
Image Number: RC09004
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Families on the Move
Most of the diverse people who comprised the influx of workers into Florida in the later years of the Great Depression came from other southern states.
These migrant laborers made their way south from Georgia and from throughout the Upper and Mid South (from Eastern North Carolina and Kentucky to Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma) after the loss of tenant positions on leased farm land, foreclosure, falling farm yields, or the closure of textile factories and other industries forced them away from their homes.
Image Number: RC05264
Some Sense of Security
Migrants took whatever little possessions they could carry and traveled, often with their entire families, to the warmth and agricultural abundance of Florida in search of sustenance, shelter, and some measure of economic security.
Image Number: RC02704