Oakland, California

Oakland, Calif., 26 April 1942, Natl Archives Commons on flickr
“Arranging flowers for alter on last day of service at Japanese Independent Congregational Church, prior to evacuation [internment],” Oakland, California, April 26, 1942, by Dorothea Lange for the U.S. War Relocation Authority, via National Archives Commons on flickr.

All along the Pacific coast — from 1942 to January 1945 — over 110,000 people of Japanese heritage were forced into internment camps.  Sixty-two percent were American citizens.

In 1988, in the Civil Liberties Act, the U.S. Government admitted that its actions had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Life in gardens: natural light

Marilyn and Elizabeth, Museum of Photographic Arts

Elizabeth and Marilyn Watson, probably in the Berkeley, California, area, 1921, by Dorothea Lange, via Museum of Photographic Arts Commons on flickr (all photos here).

Marilyn and Elizabeth 2, Museum of Photographic ArtsAbove, Marilyn Watson; in both photos, the sisters seem to be under a grape arbor. Below, they are with their mother, May V. Landis Watson, still outdoors, I believe.

Watson family, D. Lange, Museum of Photographic Arts

In 1921, Lange was 26 years old and running her own portrait studio in Berkeley. She had many well-to-do clients, as the Watsons appear to be. Ten years later, she would begin the work that made her famous: capturing the faces of the Great Depression and of the WWII internment of Japanese-Americans.

There’s a little clip from a PBS documentary on Lange here. It shows a number of her early photographs.

The Sunday porch: Delta Farm

Front porch, Delta Coop Farm, 1937, Library of CongressThe front porch of a Delta Farm home, Hillhouse, [Bolivar County,] Mississippi,” June 1937, by Dorothea Lange, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all photos here).

Delta Cooperative Farm was a privately owned and administered agricultural resettlement project for white and African-American sharecroppers evicted in the mid-1930s.

Founded in 1936 by several religious thinkers, educators, and organizers — including well-known missionary author Sherwood Eddy, who had $20,000 to spend from a follower — the enterprise avowed a commitment to economic equality among the races.

Over half of the first group of 31 farmers to settle at Delta were Black. All members worked together to grow cotton and cut and mill the land’s cypress timber.  All of them shared in the first year’s profits: $327 per family.

Delta Coop Farm houses, 1937, Library of Congress

The farm’s small houses had the same simple plan and amenities — “Screen windows and porches are uncommon in cotton cabins,” noted Lange — but they were segregated in two rows: one white, one African-American, separated by a road. And the children attended segregated schools.

All the families shared the produce of a 10-acre vegetable garden, however, which appears in the photos above to have engulfed the cabins.

And they all used the farm’s clinic, nursery, and library and attended the integrated cooperative meetings.  There had to be at least two Black members on the five-person farm council.

Delta Coop Farm, 1937, Library of Congress

At the start of World War II, the project lost members to wartime industry jobs and military enlistment, and, in 1942, the land was sold.

Four years before, in 1938, the Delta trustees had established a second inter-racial farm project in Mississippi — Providence Cooperative Farm in Holmes County. It operated until 1955, when its staff and residents fled after being threatened by the white citizens of nearby Tchula.  The empty land was sold the following year.

You can read a more complete story of the two visionary cooperative farms here.

The Sunday porch: Centerville, Calif.

Japanese-American grandmother on porch 1942, U.S. National Archives“Grandmother of farm family awaits evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration,” May 9, 1942, by Dorothea Lange for the U.S. War Relocation Authority, via U.S. National Archives on flickr.

Centerville is a community in northern California. All along the Pacific coast — from 1942 to January 1945 — over 110,000 people of Japanese heritage were forced into internment camps.  Sixty-two percent were American citizens.

In 1988, in the Civil Liberties Act, the U.S. Government admitted that its actions had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”