Florida in the Great Depression: Poignant Images of Migrant Families From Tennessee

The Great Depression devastated the South and dislocated its people.  A report issued by the federal government during the crisis called the region a “belt of sickness, misery, and unnecessary death.” Throughout the Upper South, in states such as Tennessee, families left their homes for the muck fields and packing plants of Florida. According to historian Michael Gannon, “The living conditions of migrant farmers and packers in Florida were hard at any time, but doubly so during the Great Depression. For many they were ‘root hog-or-die’ times.”


Caption: Oldest child of migrant packinghouse worker’s family from Tennessee fixing supper. Her mother and father both work during the day and sometimes until two and three in the morning, leaving the children alone. Belle Glade, Florida.


Caption: The temporary home of a migrant citrus worker and his family. Now camped near the packing plant of Winterhaven, Florida. The family is originally from Tennessee.


Caption: Woman migrant packinghouse worker from Tennessee with four children and two relatives eating supper. Belle Glade, Florida.


Caption: Part of the family of a migrant fruit worker from Tennessee, camped near the packinghouse in Winter Haven, Florida.


Caption: Migrant agricultural worker from Tennessee, formerly a railroad man, eating dinner in his shack, an old tool house. Homestead, Florida.


Caption: Wash day. The daughter of a migrant fruit worker from Tennessee, now encamped near Winter Haven, Florida.


Caption: “Buddy,” youngest child of migrant packinghouse worker from Tennessee, sitting on the only bed for six people, which is rolled out on the ground at night and pushed into the back during the day. Belle Glade, Florida.

Sources: Library of Congress, Florida: A short History by Michael Gannon