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. 

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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