Publications and Ephemera from the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection

Scrapbook | Clippings | Newsletters | Radio Script | LC Publications


A forty-five page scrapbook compiled by Charles Todd contains newspaper clippings documenting the following: labor issues of the day; migration, assimilation, and repatriation of the Dust Bowl refugees; the Todd/Sonkin recording expedition; migratory camps; rural mountain life in North Carolina; Eleanor Roosevelt; Mother Sanders; John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath; and Leadbelly. The scrapbook also contains a telegram and a flyer recruiting cotton pickers for work in Arizona.


The clippings in this online collection all pertain to the collecting project as it was being carried out by Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin.


The newsletters included in this collection were all produced in the migrant camps by and for the campers. The grassroots journalism provides revealing accounts of community life from the perspective of the farm workers. The newsletters include essays, stories, jokes, poems, drawings, announcements, gossip, recipes, and articles on camp activities such as religious, social, and recreational events, and council meetings. There is also commentary on camp rules and social conduct, discussion of educational and health issues, and advertisements for camp events, camp stores, and local businesses. Included in this online collection are two issues of "Covered Wagon News," a weekly newsletter produced at the Shafter Farm Worker Community, Shafter, California; one issue of "VOTAW: Voice of the Agricultural Worker," a weekly newsletter produced by the campers of the Yuba City Migratory Labor Camp in Sutter County, California; and seven issues of "The Hub", a weekly newsletter cited as having been produced at the Shafter Farm Worker Community, Shafter, California, in 1940, and at the Tulare Farm Workers Community in Visalia or Linnel, California, in 1942. One interesting feature to note is Charles Todd's column, which appears in some of the 1942 issues of the "The Hub." During this period, Todd was working as associate manager of the camp and his columns are written from this perspective.

Radio Script

This eight-page script for the radio program "The Song of the Okies" is built around a narrative written by Robert Sonkin that describes his impressions of the migrant performers and the circumstances in which they were recorded.

LC Publications

These publications include one issue of theLC Information Bulletin which outlines "the Homegrown Music Hour," a weekly radio program which featured the collections of the American Folklife Center including some recordings form the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection. There are liner notes which accompanied two AFS (Archive of Folk Song) long playing records that contain field recordings made by Todd and Sonkin. These albums are "Anglo-American Shanties, Lyric Songs, dance Tunes and Spirituals" (L2) and "Child Ballads Traditional in the United States" (L57).

Voices from the Dust Bowl