Thursday, 18 October 2012

Arthur Rostein and American refugees

I stumbled on these pictures by Arthur Rostein the other day. They were taken for the FSA and are of a what is essentially a refugee camp in California for migrants from the dustbowls of Arkansas and Oklahoma. The pictures remind me of Robert Adams and Bill Owens in a roundabout sort of way.

This is what he thought of California at the time. 

"I like it the least of the western states. My impression is that everything is commercialized, the police & city officials are corrupt grafters, there is little of that gracious western hospitality & most of the people are of that reactionary, super-patriotic, fascist-minded type."

There is more on Rostein here and the readings of the self-government of the camp are fascinating as are the reactions of local businesses to the camp. The camps and resettlement of migrants were opposed by big farmers who worried about their pool of cheap labour disappearing. Local shopkeepers opposed the camps because they were worried about the camp cooperative shop selling things at cheaper prices.

California's growers and a significant portion of the state's business establishment viewed with suspicion any activity on behalf of migrant workers, including the creation of migrant camps. The growers would benefit from an oversupply of homeless, dependent workers. There had been strikes in California since the start of the Depression, and the growers feared unionization and continued labor unrest.

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