North Carolina’s tobacco history dates back as far as we can remember. After the Great Depression in 1935 (as part of the New Deal) the Farm Security Administration (FSA) tried to combat extreme rural poverty through the Resettlement Administration. The ‘rural rehabilitation’ was established to improve the lives of sharecroppers, tenants, and very poor landowning farmers and of course, revolved around two main crops – tobacco and cotton.

The relief system soon came under attack; Farm Bureau deemed it ‘collectivizing agriculture’ – AKA using and exploiting farmers to work on large, government-owned farms. Over time the Conservative Coalition took control of Congress and transformed it into a program that helped poor farmers buy land, now known as the Farmers Home Administration.

Between the years before and after, tobacco farming dominated North Carolina’s history. Aside from farming, tobacco giant RJR headquartered in Winston-Salem with other cities like Durham also known for their high tobacco sales. While today we realize the effects from smoking cigarettes, that doesn’t change the deeply rooted tobacco culture that shaped our state. Lucky for us, the FSA and RA are known for their amazing photography program that hired photographers to document and report the lives and struggles of poor farm workers. These photos below give a glimpse into history.

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What a unique glimpse into the past and how lucky we are to view it today. Were you a tobacco farmer or raised by one?

For more unique North Carolina history, these photos during WWII in North Carolina are amazing.

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