Tag: Carter Revard

It was all a Dream…by Annie B Persico

What is the American Dream? White picket fences? Success? Financial stability? OrNotorious-BIG-with-his-daughterthQMQPT97B can we bring it all down to a more basic understanding? The need to survive is what drives humanity, survival of the fittest is what determines evolution.  Whether it be emotionally, physically, spiritually, nationally or independently: America from its conception has been trying to survive. This achievement of survival is what constitutes the American Dream.

In the immortal words of Biggie Smalls- we are presented with the idea of the American Dream as an achievement of survival: 

 Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me

 I’d never amount to nothin’, to all the people that lived above the

 buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of that called the police on

 me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughter…


That album was a culmination of his struggle to survive. And in those lyrics, we see the Migrant Mother. We see Carter Revard. They survived.

The “problem” with poverty in the U.S. is that we see those who suffer from it as incapable of achieving the American Dream. But those in poverty are the people that are illustrating the American Dream of Survival the best- the Migrant Mother and Biggie were just trying to feed their kids—and eventually they did. Carter Revard was just trying to overcome the sadness and depression of the Dust Bowl, and he won by writing poems about privies.  The relation is astounding; in fact it is influences of people who survive that poverty that developed my understanding of the American Dream.  Poverty is suffering, we see it illustrated in the words of Biggie and Revard, in the image of The Migrant Mother, but understanding their ability to overcome it is what really constitutes THE American Dream to me.

Uh, damn right I like the life I live

‘Cause I went from negative to positive


He might as well have said “Cause I achieved the American Dream, do you know what I Mean?…” (but I’m not sure that would have sold as many records…)

Migrant Mother- May the odds be ever in your favor, by Brittany N. Cozzens

When looking at Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph I couldn’t help blog 2but feel despair for this poor woman and her children.

This image, while taken during one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, does not reflect the “American Dream” that I picture in my head. For many, the foundation of their vision of the American dream for lies in having shelter, family and money. But when looking at Migrant Mother and reading Carter Revard’s autobiography Winning the Dust Bowl, it made me wonder about Revard’s reference of the Dust Bowl being a game. How is it that those that truly needed help, like Florence Owens Thompson (Migrant Mother) weren’t getting it? Was getting some kind of government assistance a stroke of luck?

From here, my mind threw together all of these different images of being a poor farmer, doing a grueling trade every day all day even though no significant money was really being brought in; a mother with hungry mouths to feed; a widow; and other people in other parts of the country having resources but not giving them away.

And then it clicked.

Florence Owens Thompson and her situation is very similar to that of Katniss Everdeen’s family in the Hunger Games. Mrs. Everdeen, like Florence Owens Thompson, was a widow who had children to fend for, though she could barely provide for herself. Her family lived in District 12 and was known for coal mining and migrant mother was a pea picker like many others in her area. Both worked tirelessly but couldn’t leave. This is not the ideal image of the American Dream.

Meanwhile, there were people in the Capital (in both places) that were well off; eating food served by those that had nothing. These people in the Capital were living the American Dream, while others who were much worse off got no aid. Is this how we understand America to be? Those who have resources choosing to maintain their unrestrained lifestyle rather than give to those who are desperately in need in, such as the coal miners of District 12, the pea pickers and orange grove farmers in California?

Part of the problem of poverty, as addressed through Dorothea Lange’s photo, in Revard’s poems, and in the Hunger Games is that those with resources are not willing to give them up in order to better support someone else. This is not how I want American to be pictured through any medium. Getting assistance shouldn’t be a stroke of luck, or “if they odds are in your favor,” it should be because someone is in dire need and because people care. The American dream is something that Americans should help their fellow Americans try to achieve rather than just leaving people out in the dust.


The Great Depression, Poverty, and the American Way by Nicole Thomas

If I had to define the American Dream, I would define it as being able to have tamerican_wayhe opportunity to be successful (however you might find fitting), having the opportunity to be free to express yourself, and being able to live independently. These things require some financial stability. The migrant mother photo contradicts my own idea of the American Dream, and I’m sure it also does so to the rest of the world. The Encyclopedia of American Studies entry on “America Perceived” states that “The perception of America as a land of economic opportunity was broken only during the years of the Great Depression.” The migrant mother photograph does a really good job in representing that sudden change in view of America with the coming of the Great Depression.

The Depression was full of inequality between the rich and the poor, and whites and blacks. African Americans were hit very hard by the Depression, and because of discrimination, they often had to give up their jobs to white workers. The image below is from the Depression, the background shows the happy all white family of four as the “American Way,, and in the foreground is a line of jobless African American and migrant workers.

In the Migrant Mother photo, I see poverty and depression, but I also see strength and perseverance. In the selection of readings from Carter Revard, he mentions “bridges” frequently. On page 132 in the Going to College section he says “we should remember that a small group of persons who have shown themselves unusually able to learn from the regular curriculum what their teachers want them to learn are supposed to include the bridge-builders, the language-translators, the power-transformers who will help us get across time and space and the rivers of Babylon to significant others, even as we are swinging dangerously into the future.” Revard is trying to get a certain point across about the Great Depression. The hard working impoverished people in the United States, like the Migrant Mother, were able to survive, even when the odds were against them. They were able to build the bridges to the future by surviving the Dust Bowl. The people were able to push the widely ridiculed President Hoover out, and bring Roosevelt in. After elected, President Roosevelt promised his “New Deal”, creating several programs to help end the depression, including an effort to eliminate discrimination.

Although I define America as a land of opportunity and success (overall), the “American Dream” and the ability to live the “American Dream” did not come without sacrifice. Going back to the America Perceived entry, although the rest of the world viewed America as “young, fresh and full of possibility,” they also viewed it as “immature” and “lacking history.” The Great Depression is a prime example of our “New World” and the flaws that were (and still are) in it. Because America was youthful and young and new, it made many mistakes.  And through those mistakes, America created its own history and learned what was good and what was not good for the nation. After spending some time with the Migrant Mother and the Great Depression, I have come to find that as Americans, we really are (as Revard puts it) a nation of “bridge-builders” and “language translators” and we continue to pave our way into the future, trying our best to decide right from wrong. We strive to learn from the people of our past, like the Migrant Mother, in order to build more bridges towards the future of America. At first glance, America (easily and simply) seems like the land of opportunity and independence, but when we take into consideration what we had to go through as a country to get to where we are now, that is what defines America.