Forced Evictions of Sharecroppers—1939

In an effort to help suffering farmers, Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933 as part of the New Deal. The Act allocated funds for farmers to pay sharecroppers who lived on their land. However, some landowners replaced tenants with day wage laborers by using a loophole, and kept the government money owed to the sharecroppers for themselves. Sharecroppers were evicted from their homes – homes to which they had no rights as owners or renters.

In one case in 1939, more than 1,500 men, women, and children piled their belongings along Missouri’s Highway 60 to protest the harmful effects of the policy. They set up ramshackle camps and slept in makeshift huts and jalopies. Images of these impoverished, desperate families — African American and white — shocked the nation and attracted the attention of the White House.

Evicted black and white demonstrators along Highway 60, Missouri, 1939, photographs by Arthur Rothstein
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration Collection, LC-USF33-002927-M1 DLC; LC-USF33-002967-M4 DLC; LC-USZ62-130615 DLC, LC-USF33-002943-M3.