America in Color: 1939-1943

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

We have my old friend and St. Thomas High School classmate Pat Callahan to thank for these beautiful photographs making their appearance in The Pecan Park Eagle today. Patrick, my man, thank you for all of us.

Today’s column is a visual feast. Just click on the link below and be whisked away to the Denver Post collection of rare Library of Congress photos depicting everyday American life in color during the latter years of the Great Depression-Early World War II era, from 1939 into 1943. Their beauty is in their full color depiction of an America that used to be, but no longer is. In some ways, that’s good. Poverty and racism are never pretty – and both need to be fought commonly as depredations of the human spirit that they each are.

Poverty is not the absence of money. It is the absence of opportunity. Racism simply guarantees that the absence of opportunity for some people over time will not lead to a crying out for same, but as a calling out for entitlement and rescue with money, If granted as living subsistence relief only through publicly funded social programs, the suffering new political constituency group gets to keep the spiritual poverty that came with the racist limitations of their previous mental or legal slavery to a prejudicially suppressed life without any real opportunity. In other words, remove opportunity long enough – and people don’t stop being hungry – it’s just that many of them forget what they are really hungry for. They grow up settling for rescue and relief from the public soup kitchen because that’s all they ever known or been taught to know.

But there’s something else here too in these photos. – To me, it’s an America still bonding close to the ground on family, shared labor, and community connection to others – and not to selfish consumerism
or addiction to technological distractions, like texting devices, or this one I’m using now, the Internet. Even in color, the people are not living at the brim of frilly material things that surround most of us in 2010, but they are not impoverished either by the absence of money.
Check out the photos. Get lost in another world of America’s yesteryears. Enjoy. Reflect. Connect with what you see in the images that follow. Then, here’s a game you can play that may be both helpful and kind of fun: Pick out a photo that might help you with your own perspective on life in 2010, if you could magically go back and personally experience the 24 hours of that particular photo day with the subjects, scenery, or activity that unfolds in that particular picture. Have fun. Here’s the Library of Congress collection link now hosted by the Denver Post:

http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/2363/

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