Between 1939 and 1944, a group of photographers working for the government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) and then the Office of War Information (OWI) shot about 1,600 color photos. These photos depict life in rural America and the mobilization efforts for World War II.

The FSA was created in 1937 from an earlier agency named the Resettlement Administration. The RA had been created by a 1935 executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers by providing loans, purchasing depleted farmland and resettling destitute families into government-designed communities.

Roosevelt tapped a former Columbia University economics professor, Rexford G. Tugwell, to lead the RA’s efforts. In turn, Tugwell appointed one of his former students to head the RA’s historical section. That former student was named Roy Stryker, and the task given to him was to form a team of photographers who would document hardships nationwide, particularly across the Midwest and in California.

In 1942, six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt created the OWI. While the FSA was created to depict the hardships that farmers were facing, the OWI’s mission was to foster patriotism as the nation mobilized for war during World War II. In that vein, it served as a government propaganda arm. The majority of the photos that the FSA and the OWI produced were black and white and are those that people are more familiar with. The color photos shown here are far less frequently seen.

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