In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Loftis examines the artists who put a human face on the farmworkers’ plight in California during the Great Depression, focusing on writer John Steinbeck, photographer Dorothea Lange, sociologist and author Paul Taylor, and journalist Carey McWilliams. Loftis probes the interplay between journalism and art in the 1930s, when both academics and artists felt an urgent need to be relevant in the face of enormous misery. The power of their work grew out of their personal involvement in both the labor struggles and the hardships endured by workers and their families. Steinbeck, Lange, and the other artists and intellectuals in their circles created the public images of their times. Works such as The Grapes of Wrath or Lange’s Migrant Mother actually helped mold public opinion and form government policies. Even today these works remain icons in our shared perception of that era. Loftis helps us understand why this art still seems the truest representation of those desperate times, three-quarters of a century later.
About the Author
Anne Loftis was born in New York City in 1922, graduated from Smith College in 1944, and worked as a journalist and researcher after moving to California in 1954. She was research assistant to sociologist Paul Taylor for many years and is the daughter of the noted historian Allan Nevins. She is the co-author of The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of Japanese-Americans During World War II, A Long Time Coming: The Struggle to Unionize America's Farm Workers, and the author of California, Where the Twain Did Meet.
"Witnesses to the Struggle is a wonderful book, beautifully written and must read for labor, ethnic, economic, western, and social/cultural historians, and for those who treasure Americana." —Choice
“An extensively researched, well-written, well-paced study . . . The result is not entirely labor history, biography, technical photographic study, or literary criticism but combines valuable elements of each.” —California History
“The 1930s were a time, as [John] Steinbeck put it, when a tremendous amount of human drama unfolded for artists, writers and photographers to record. Loftis has captured the sense of drive and urgency that was felt then, both by the labor organizers and those recording the events.” —Palo Alto Weekly
"A deeply researched, highly readable, useful, insightful, and balanced study of the way professional observers described and analyzed the tumultuous events of the 1930s." —Southern California Quarterly