January Exhibit: Great Depression Photographers
From 1935-44, the Farm Security Administration hired photographers and writers to document the hardships of rural farming communities. The goal of the FSA photography project was "introducing America to Americans." Over 175,000 black and white negatives now reside in the FSA/OWI collection.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
A BRIEF HISTORY OF POVERTY AND INEQUALITY:
Egyptian society was deeply stratified, with about 80% of all wealth held by only 20% of the population. Social inequality acted as a catalyst for worker specialization. As some rise in power and wealth, it creates a need for symbols of wealth and luxury. This demand encouraged the creation of specialized labor groups (the makers of luxury goods, for example). Interactions between classes then perpetuate, and often increase, the division of wealth.
ANCIENT Greece and ROME
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
In Greek culture Philanthropia, "loving what it is to be human", was treated as an obligation to your community and was encouraged through heavy societal pressure. After the Romans conquered the Greeks they emulated many Greek customs, among them a more regulated version philanthropy.
"These responsibilities obligated wealthy citizens to subsidize personally the cost of temples, city walls, armories, granaries, and other municipal amenities promoting inhabitants’ common identity and welfare."
But the tendency of many wealthy donors was to use these legal philanthropies for self-glorification, tax deductions, and political maneuvering so that it "...did little to help larger numbers of the destitute in growing Roman imperial cities."
United States - great depression
In the years leading up to the Great Depression there was a dramatic increase in inequality between the wealthy, who accounted for a third of all wealth, and the poor with no savings at all. The unemployment rate climbed from 3% to 25%, with over 13 million jobs lost and incomes reduced by 40%. The wealthiest felt very little of this change.
United States - Present Day
Today, income inequality is at a high not seen since the 1920's. And, globally, it is at an all time high. As of 2017, eight billionaires own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, the bottom half of the world's population. With stagnating wages and rising healthcare, education, and housing costs, poverty rates are still climbing.
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then— are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as 'bad luck.'”
- Robert A. Heinlein
Resources in Humboldt County:
Food for People: Humboldt County's food bank, operating 14 community food projects locally. 707-445-3166
The Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center: Family services, employment services, transitional residency programs. 707-407-3833
Housing Humboldt: Local nonprofit focused on providing safe housing for low to middle income residents. 707-826-7312
Redwood Community Action Agency: Nonprofit agency with various community service programs including the RAVEN Project (youth-led outreach program), and Launch Pad (transitional living program). 707-269-2001