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Photos reveal black work camps in Mich. in Depression | The Detroit News

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Photos reveal black work camps in Mich. in Depression | The Detroit News

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] picture is labeled simply, “Big Jim.” The rare photo is among 30 acquired by the Bentley Historical Library last year from a private donor that capture a place and time often overlooked by history: black Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Michigan and elsewhere during the Great Depression. The photos are the only known images of the state’s segregated, all-black camps. President Franklin Roosevelt established the corps in the early 1930s, offering shelter, clothing, food and wages to a “vast army” of unemployed men who worked to conserve and restore national resources. [mc4wp_form id=”6042″]

As the people and stories behind the pictures are increasingly lost to time, the university posted them online and launched a public call for information. So far, Big Jim’s story is the only one that’s been filled in, thanks to people who knew him and responded: He was James Richardson, a quiet, strong, hard-working rural Michigan farmer who served in World War I and went on to join the CCC.

For the archivists, it represents delayed but welcome recognition for the contributions of workers who faced discrimination and marginalization during a dark economic era.