The Silent Intensity: African Americans in Southeast Missouri Farms

For Immediate Release

The Arts At Page Library Presents its African American History Month Exhibiton | A Retrospective Look, The Silent Intensity: African Americans in Southeast Missouri Farms


Southeast Missouri Farms

Jefferson City, Missouri – (February 2017) –The Arts At Page Library presents their online African American history, photography exhibition entitled, The Silent Intensity: African Americans in Southeast Missouri Farms. The online exhibition features an array of documentary photographs that tell a story about the conditions during the Great Depression, in which African Americans lived and worked as sharecroppers in the state of Missouri. The exhibition is available to the public from February 1, 2017 through February 28, 2017.

The Silent Intensity: African Americans in Southeast Missouri Farms, visually documents the lives of African American sharecroppers from the Great Depression that migrated from the south during 1900 and 1920, in search of work in Southeast Missouri’s Bootheel. Many of the workers were recruited from Mississippi and promised land to farm. Landowners contributed the seed, the farm implements, mules, and meager housing while the sharecropper worked the land from planting to harvest. Black workers were offered little money to support their families. The stock market crashed when the cotton market fell apart, and planter proprietors no longer needed sharecroppers and by the thousands African American workers in the Bootheel were evicted.  President Roosevelt created the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1937, created to fight American rural poverty and aid farmers, sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and migrant workers.

Farm laborers turned to the federal government for help and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration an agency housed under the (FSA) funded the construction of 100 + agricultural communities. One of these communities, called Southeast Missouri Farms, was located on 6,700 acres outside of New Madrid in the small town of La Forge. In 1937, the Farm Security Administration provided housing for 100 displaced (40 black and 60 white) sharecropper families in southeast Missouri. Sharecropper communities were segregated, giving rise to racial tensions. Consequently, African American families created cooperative communities to help each other survive. The Farm Security Administration (FSA) through a photography unit with an odd name – the “Historical Section”, would document their lives.

From 1035-1944, photographers were hired solely for their skills, most in their twenties or thirties, and they traveled on assignment for months. Eleven photographers were given assignments to document the plight of poor farmers and sharecroppers for the “Historical Project”. Russell Lee, a white photographer is credited as being one the photographers that documented African Americans in southeast Missouri, and Gordon Parks was the only African American photographer commissioned to capture the lives of African Americans during the economic drought in the United States. The photographers that were chosen to document the lives of many during the Great Depression created a realist point of view and wanted to move the American public and the government to take action regarding the conditions that were taking place.

The exhibition features over twenty documentary photographic images, and accompanied by educational materials that can be used for historical discussions and course assignments. Additionally, a special section of the exhibition features images taken by Gordon Parks. Visit to view the online exhibition and to download free resources for research purposes.

The Silent Intensity: African Americans in Southeast Missouri Farms, was organized by The Arts At Page Library. Research for this exhibition derives from open source materials from Umbra Search, The New York Public Domain, and the Library of Congress Public Domain.

Exhibition Details

View Online: February 1, 2017 thru February 28, 2017




Founded in August 2016, The Arts At Page Library is a library arts program and space, located at Inman E. Page Library, Lincoln University Missouri. The art program was designed to expose students, faculty and the community to cultural artistry at a Historical Black College University Library.

The Arts At Page Library is a premier space that provides creative educational programming, physical and online exhibitions, and access to an African American art book collection, library art tours and a university academic library for research and lecture series. Visit the online exhibition space 365 days a year! Share our latest exhibit with your students and community members.

For more information about The Arts At Page Library Online Exhibition space contact, The Arts At Page Library Art Coordinator, kYmberly Keeton at (573) 681-5513 |


Exhibition Curated by kYmberly Keeton, M.L.S., | Photography Credit: From The New York Public Library Public Domain.