A traveling exhibition showcasing contract laborers’ contributions to the United States during World War II will open up a limited engagement on Saturday at the .
“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964” will be appearing at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History from Aug. 18-Oct. 28. This is the first time the exhibit has appeared in Georgia as part of its nationwide tour.
During World War II, the United States was battling severe labor shortages at home. In 1943, President Roosevelt announced the creation of the Bracero Program (Bracero being a term for manual laborer in Mexico) to help man fields and railroads. In the 22 years it ran, roughly 2 million Mexicans were brought into the United States to work on short-term labor contracts.
The exhibition explores the braceros’ contributions to communities in Mexico and the U.S. as well as the unique challenges they faced during the war years and afterwards. Both bitter and sweet, the bracero experience tells a story of exploitation but also opportunity.
The exhibit is in English and Spanish, and includes photos, documents and artifacts as well as an audio component that records audio histories from workers and their family members.
"I think it’s great that we can bring a part of the Smithsonian's unique exhibits to the community," said Melinda Senn, the museum's curator.
As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Southern Museum has access to the Smithsonian's catalog of exhibits.
"They have quite a catalog of exhibits that can basically be rented out," Senn said. "We chose this one. (It) sounded like a very interesting one."
The exhibit is included in regular museum admission, which is $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $5.50 for children ages 4-12 and free for children three and under.