The Photograph of Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor in North Carolina, 1908-1918
August 12 - November 4, 2017
In 1908, photographer Lewis Hine began visiting textile mills in North Carolina to document the exploitation of child workers. Though child labor was common at the time, Hine and other reformers wanted people to see just how horrible working conditions were for many children.
The Photography of Lewis Hine showcases 40 of Hine’s photographs, discusses the history behind these photographs, provides insight into everyday life in North Carolina textile mills and mill villages, and concludes with a look at child labor today. Whether it is young migrant farmworkers toiling in our state or millions of children laboring in Asian cotton fields or on African tobacco and cocoa plantations, the struggle continues.
Lewis Hines was a photographer known for his documentation of exploited child workers and government projects. In 1904, Lewis Hine photographed immigrants on Ellis Island, as well as at the tenements and sweatshops where they lived and worked. In 1911, he was hired by the National Child Labor Committee to record child labor conditions, and he produced appalling pictures of exploited children, including those in North Carolina. During World War I, Hines worked as a photographer with the Red Cross and later photographed the construction of the Empire State Building. He died on November 3, 1940, in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Hine’s photos documenting the horrid conditions under which children were employed, made real the plight of these children. This led to the passage of child labor laws. Not only did Hine document the horrors of work, he also depicted the dignity of labor. Through his photographs, Hine was able to inspire social change.
The traveling exhibition is on loan from the North Carolina Museum of History.