Dorothea Lange. Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, 1940

The Dirty Thirties: New Deal Photography Frames the Migrants’ Stories

“The Dirty Thirties” explores the journeys of rural migrants fleeing the Dust Bowl, drought, and economic difficulties during the 1930s. In desperate search for jobs and new opportunities, thousands of former farm owners and ex-tenant farmers left their homes in the Southern Plains states and set off to the cotton fields of Arizona and the “Promised Land” of California, where supposedly work could be found.

This exhibit explores why the migrants left, their journey westward, their experiences living and working in Arizona, and what life could be like for those who traveled onto California. Told primarily through the compelling documentary photography taken under the auspices of the New Deal programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, some images from this exhibit will likely stay with you throughout your lifetime. ​​

The exhibition will be shown from September 2, 2020 – December 27, 2020 at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, Arizona. More information

photo credit: Dorothea Lange. Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, 1940. source: