Facing labor shortages on the home front during World War II, the United States initiated a series of agreements with Mexico to recruit Mexican men to work on American farms and railroads. The Emergency Farm Labor Program, more familiarly known as the Bracero Program, enabled approximately 2 million Mexicans to enter the United States and work on short-term labor contracts.
The exhibition explores the Braceros’ contributions to communities in Mexico and the United States, the opportunities that became available to Braceros and the challenges that they faced as guest workers during the war years and afterward. Included in the exhibition are 15 freestanding banners featuring oral histories, quotes and photographs by Leonard Nadel, a photographer who, in 1956, exposed employer violations endured by many braceros. The Nadel photos inspired the museum’s work on “Bittersweet Harvest" and the "Bracero History Project", which also includes audio clips of former Braceros relating their experiences. The firsthand accounts were collected as part of the project’s oral-history initiative.
Accompanying the exhibition is a website with transcripts, audio files of all of the oral histories, photos, essays, bibliographies and teaching resources. Developed by the Center for New Media at George Mason University, the website features a section where braceros and their families can contribute their own stories. The website is located at braceroarchieve.org.
“Bittersweet Harvest” is organized by the National Museum of American History and organized for travel by SITES. Funding is made possible through the Smithsonian’
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