Black Migrants is an exhibition of African-American farm worker photos I took in the 1960s installed at the Fresno Art Museum from July 13, 2018 to January 6, 2019. The Museum is at 233 N. First St. Fresno, California
While covering farm workers’ life, work, and union organizing in the 1960s I discovered a number of African-American settlements in California’s San Joaquin Valley. These towns are a little known part of history, the results of the rural-to-rural stream of the Great Migration out of the Jim Crow south.
Although I shot many scenes of dire poverty and backbreaking work, I was moved to show the dignity and humanity of these hard working migrants. I saw their loving families, their sense of community, their strong work ethic . . . and even the joy of turning an old rope and tree into a playground for the kids.
Fresno Art Museum Director Michelle Ellis Pracy curated the exhibition.
Joel Pickford made the extraordinary prints.
Mark Arax and Michael Eissinger provided valuable background information on the history of the African-American settlements.
California Humanities Community Stories Program, Fresno Art Museum and its donors, and West of West Center for Narrative History of the Central Valley have provided funding.
The West of the West Center has produced Black Okies, a documentary on the history of Teviston directed by Joel Pickford. You can view this film by going to this site: https://vimeo.com/user25968631/blackokies Enter the password (case sensitive): Bokies0415
Michael Essinger is a doctoral student at UC Merced who is studying the forgotten history of African-American communities up and down the Central Valley. You can view or download his papers at this site: Black Okie History
Acres of Aspiration by Hannibal Johnson documents the all Black towns established in Oklahoma from the 1890s to the 1920s. They attracted independent, hard-working families from the deep South. This helps explain the strength of the younger generation that moved to California in the 50s to found Teviston and other primarily Black communities in California. One can order from Alibris.com.
Rolf Cahn narrates his blues fable telling the story of Texas bluesman Lightning Hopkins’ session with a San Francisco street musician, J. C. Burse. The program was broadcast at Pacifica Radio stations KPFA, KPFK, and WBAI in 1964. It includes three blues by Lightning and four by J.C.
Rolf did many folk, blues, and flamenco shows on KPFA in the early 60s, as well as a live series from his Berkeley club, The Cabal. I was his producer for most of this time.
I produced this sound montage in 1963 to follow an interview of Jessica Mitford on her book by the same title. She commented to Trevor Thomas on her devastating critique of the funeral industry in the US. I assembled the sound montage from ads in the industry press, military contractor ads in Scientific American, and music to highlight the commercialization of death.