Russell Lee (1903-1986) began working as a photographer for the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration (RA) in 1936. He continued with the organization for the next six years as it became the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later part of the Office of War Information (OWI). His tenure was longer than any other photographer for the organization and his output the most prolific. He shot over 25,000 of the 175,000 negatives in the FSA–OWI Black-and-White Negatives Collection.
While his most iconic shots have been in the public consciousness for almost a century and the FSA-OWI collections have now been digitized and are available for free, the vast majority of his work will likely remain unknown to the general public unless curated into more finite and convenient experiences. The aim of this series of books is to provide those experiences and allow the reader to explore different aspects of Russell Lee’s monumental work in depth.
In April 1941, Russell Lee traveled to Chicago with fellow FSA photographer Edwin Rosskam and author Richard Wright as their guide. They spent three weeks documenting Chicago’s Black Belt neighborhoods in the midst of the Great Migration from the rural South. While a few images were published at the time, including one of Lee’s most popular photos, the wide range of life Lee captured has never been appreciated. This book presents the breadth of Lee’s study and includes 228 images he shot in those weeks leading up to Easter 1941 on Chicago’s South Side.