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They Harvest Despair: The Migrant Farmworker
Author/Editor: Dale Wright
Year Published: 1965
Format: Hardcover 
Description: In the tomato fields of Florida, Red Fisher, doubled over in the tubercular’s cough, looks toward the day he can go to “one of them clinics” and get some “pills” to help him.
In a rattletrap bus going north, little Virginia Lee Robinson asks, “Momma, will there be a school where we’re going? There wasn’t none at the last place and there ain’t no schoolhouse here. Will there be one up the road?”
In his cabbage-carton crib, two-month-old Abraham Johnson screams fearfully in the night as a platoon of potato bugs marches across his face and into his nostrils.
This is the life of America’s migrant farm worker—a life which Dale Wright, as a staff writer for the New York World-Telegram and Sun, shared off and on during a period of six months, and which he chronicles in this book. He followed the path of the Atlantic Seaboard worker—gathering Florida’s tomatoes and South Carolina’s snap beans, scratching potatoes out of New Jersey’s dirt with his fingers, sharing the tinderbox shanties where the migrants lived along the Atlantic Coast. Just thirty miles south of glittering Miami Beach, thirty miles from Time Square, and all along the 2,000-odd-mile stretch between them, he found the same crude exploitation, the same dreadful living conditions, the same futility of life in the migrant stream.
Employed now for less than half the year and threatened with more joblessness and lower pay by increasing mechanization, the migrant worker is entitled to few workmen’s benefits and is frequently unaware of those he could collect. Caught up in the treadmill of poverty, he has a vague dream of a better life but no means of attaining it.
Recent legislative efforts and the work of social service and religious organizations (which the author describes in detail) are a step in the right direction, but, he stresses, much more needs to be done.