berence abbott city photographs, the modern day grapes of wrath

Oyster Houses Apr. 1, 1937

Oyster Houses Apr. 1, 1937. By Berence Abbott. Even has her autograph at the bottom.

Harlem Street II, June 14, 1938

Harlem Street II, June 14, 1938. by Berence Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991). Abbott got what we would call her big break when Man Rayhired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. She later worked for the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor.

As Common As Dirt

“As Common as Dirt” by Tracie McMillan has won the 2013 James Beard Award in the Politics/Policy/Environment category. The award is the highest honor for food journalism.

Compared with other recent tales of American farmworkers, Villalobos and Gomez might consider themselves lucky. In Florida, tomato pickers have been locked in box trucks under the watch of armed guards; in North Carolina, pregnant workers have been exposed to pesticides during harvest and birthed babies with missing limbs; in Michigan, children as young as six have been found laboring in blueberry groves. Those are marquee cases that garner national media, shining the spotlight on the most egregious abuses. In relative terms, suits like Villalobos are mundane, but they are also ubiquitous, filed with a frequency that suggests the most pervasive and insidious abuse faced by farmworkers is the kind Villalobos encountered: the blatant disregard of labor laws governing wages, safety, and health. This type of abuse is most typically seen in fields managed not by farmers but by farm-labor contractors, many of whom started out as farmworkers themselves.

I wrote a post just recently about John Steinbeck. Many consider his novel The Grapes of Wrath, about a poor farm family during the Depression, his greatest work. Though probably some people read it or watch the very good movie version, and think those battles for decent working conditions and fair pay for a day’s work are a thing of the past. We just keep fighting the same battles over and over again because greed and cruelty are monsters with insatiable appetites.

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