Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the creation of what would become the largest Mexican guest-worker program in U.S. history.

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964,”  a bilingual (English/Spanish) traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution, explores this chapter of American history. UNC Charlotte’s J. Murrey Atkins Library will host the display from Saturday, Sept. 2, through Sunday, Nov. 12.

Mireya Loza, a curator with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and author of “Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom” will speak about the exhibit at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 14, in the Atkins Library Halton Reading Room.

 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 two million Mexicans to enter the United States and work on short-term labor contracts.

The traveling 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 free-standing 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.

UNC Charlotte College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) faculty members, in conjunction with Atkins librarians, created programming to accompany “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964” being exhibited on campus.  CLAS, the library and the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund provided support for the programming. Learn more on the web.

A closing talk and reception will be at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the library’s Halton Reading Room. Thomas Arcury, program director of the Translational Science Institute, director of the Center for Worker Health and professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest University, will speak.