What Beyoncé's 'Formation' might look like if it were set in the 1930s.

There is no better way to celebrate Black History Month than with historic photographs from an era long-gone ... and Beyoncé.

The photos are publicly available for the first time thanks to the recently digitized collection from the Farm Security Administration, which captured America on film from the mid-1930s to 1942. Along with other agencies' photos, the collection totals more than 170,000 pictures

The images below offer a rare glimpse into the lives of African-American workers and families. Many were employed as sharecroppers or tenant farmers, but landowners often kept these farmers in their debt, leaving many hardworking families poverty-stricken. Conditions worsened with the Great Depression, as African-American workers were hit especially hard. By 1932, nearly half were out of work. It was a bleak period in history, but it laid the groundwork for many of the labor movements and civil rights protests to come. 


Like these photographs, Beyoncé's latest single, "Formation," (written by Queen B and Swae Lee) perfectly captures a spirit that is strong, fearless, and unapologetically black. 

In the spirit of Black History Month, why not experience the two together?

"Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess."

Natchez, Mississippi, 1940. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh."

Watching the Columbia-Navy football game in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by John Vachon/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I'm so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin')."

Church Sunday in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1935. Photo by Ben Shahn/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"My daddy Alabama"

Reading classes in Gee's Bend, Alabama, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Momma Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas bama."

A sharecropper's home in Independence, Louisiana, 1939. Photo by Lee Russell/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I like my baby heir with baby hair and Afros. I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils."

Lee County, Mississippi, 1935. Photo by Arthur Rothstein/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Earned all this money but they never take the country out me. "

Fuquay Springs, North Carolina, 1935. Photo by Arthur Rothstein/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I got hot sauce in my bag, swag."

Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I like corn breads and collard greens"

Washing greens in Belle Glade, Florida, 1941. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Oh, yes, you besta believe it."

Granville County, North Carolina, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I see it, I want it"

"I stunt, yellow-bone it."

A woman works at a factory in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jack Delano/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I dream it."

"I work hard."

A woman teaches lessons in her home in Transylvania, Louisiana, 1939. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I grind till I own it."

Memphis, Tennessee, 1938. Photo by Lee Russell/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Sometimes I go off (I go off)"

Singing during the collection at a black church in Heard County, Georgia. Photo by Jack Delano/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I go hard (I go hard)"

A man removes seeds from a cotton gin in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Get what's mine (take what's mine)"

A man buys supplies from a mobile general store in Forrest City, Arkansas, 1938. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I'm a star (I'm a star)"

Students in Omar, West Virginia. Photo by Ben Shahn/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"'Cause I slay, slay"

"I slay, hey, I slay, OK"

Friends gather at a juke joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I slay, OK, all day, OK."

Unloading tobacco in Durham, North Carolina, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I slay, OK, I slay, OK."

Easter morning, Chicago. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"We gon' slay, slay"

The bar at the Palm Tavern in Chicago, 1941. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"We slay, OK."

Swimming in the fountain at Union Station in Washington, D.C., 1938. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"OK, ladies, now let's get in formation. 'Cause I slay."

National Youth Administration meeting in Chicago. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"OK, ladies, now let's get in formation. 'Cause I slay."

Fourth- and fifth-grade students in Georgia, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Walcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Prove to me you got some coordination."

Construction workers in Washington, D.C., 1941. Photo by John Collier/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I might get your song played on the radio station. 'Cause I slay."

A blind street musician performs in West Memphis, Arkansas, 1935. Photo by Ben Shahn/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I might get your song played on the radio station. 'Cause I slay."

John Dyson plays the accordion in Maryland, 1940. Photo by John Vachon/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"You might just be a black Bill Gates in the making. 'Cause I slay."

A farmer with his family and mule team in Flint River Hills, Georgia, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"I might just be a black Bill Gates in the making. 'Cause I slay."

A young girl works on a sewing project in Creek County, Oklahoma,1940. Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

"Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper."

A former slave in her home in Greensboro, North Carolina, 1941. Photo by Jack Delano/U.S. Farm Security Administration

Don't let Black History Month end without checking out the rest of these incredible photographs.

There are hundreds more where these came from, and you can access all of them for free courtesy of the New York Public Library. 

Pexels / Julia M Cameron
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