The Civil Rights Collection, one of the major existing archives of civil rights photography, comprises some 27,000 mostly black and white images, the work of several photographers done largely in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia in the early to mid sixties. Some image files extend beyond these limits. The Collection includes work from three points of view: movement photography expressing the concerns and activities of civil rights organizations; photojournalism covering important events of the period, often as assignments for major picture magazines; and social documentary photography of the human and the natural landscape of the South. Some of the photographs were made by the Southern Documentary Project, a team of eight photographers advised by Dorothea Lange that documented social change during the summer of 1964 when more than 1000 students from northern colleges entered Mississippi to teach in Freedom Schools and carry out voter registration.
The Migrant Farm Labor Collection contains 50,000 images focused around Cesar Chavez and the struggle of the United Farm Worker movement. It is the largest picture archive of this material in the world. The images range in time from the early 50's to the mid 70's, and in setting from South Texas to Nova Scotia. The major work, however, is sited in the orchards, fields and vineyards of California's Central Valley during the 60's and 70's, a pivotal period when field workers organized their first effective union and began to realize some of their demands for better wages and working conditions.
The Collection houses the work of three of the five or six major photographers who covered this subject. Although largely self-taught, several of them studied with and received encouragement from Dorothea Lange and John Collier Jr., and their work follows in the classical tradition of social documentary photography from Jacob Riis and Louis Hine to the Farm Security Administration to the contemporary work of Eugene Richards and Ken Light.