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Ernest Lowe: Black Migrants to the Central Valley (Fresno Art Museum 2018 exhibit)
During the 1940s and 1950s, some 40,000 African American sharecroppers migrated to California’s Central Valley, taking up residence in farm labor camps. Their rural to rural journey makes them the great exception to the Great Migration, which was overwhelmingly rural to urban. Shortly after arriving, these black migrants were all but put out of work by the mechanization of agriculture.

In the early 1960s, while reporting on migrant labor for KPFA radio, a young photographer, Ernest Lowe, captured powerful black and white images of life in the communities of Pixley and Dos Palos adjacent to Fresno, California. These townships were impoverished yet cohesive communities, lacking paved roads, electricity, running water, and other essential services. Lowe’s photographs are the sole extant document of this rural people’s journey to a land of broken promises.

His startlingly beautiful images of community, individuals, tasks, free time, housing, and church provide the viewer a local historical perspective on the migrant hardships they managed and survived.

This is an original exhibition of the Fresno Art Museum drawn from the historic negatives of Ernest Lowe and printed for the exhibition by photographer Joel Pickford. The selected photographs transport audiences back in time nearly sixty years to experience life in rural African American communities of the Central Valley.

Exhibition Curator: Michele Ellis Pracy, FAM Executive Director & Chief Curator

Exhibition Sponsors: Baker Peterson Franklin, CPA, LLC, Cal Humanities Community Stories Program, and West of West Center for Narrative History of the Central Valley.
Ernest  Lowe  Photography  Blacks  Central  Valley  CA  Migrants  Migration  Museums 
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