Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.


  • New Harvest, Old Shame
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $300.00
  • Date: Copyright 1989. Released 1989.
  • Descriptors: Migrant labor. Agricultural laborers. Labor
  • Production Information: Live action. Color. 60 min.
  • Production Company: WGBH (Boston) Consortium of Public Television Stations
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • Cataloging: 331.544 Migrant agricultural workers|| Migrant labor
  • Print Entry #: 2:38
  • Reviewer: Pat Lora

    Thirty years ago, Edward R. Murrow exposed the plight of the migrant worker in America in his television documentary, Harvest of Shame. He captured on film the day-to-day struggle for survival that faces agricultural workers who wend their way from Florida to Indiana, following the crops. In 1990, Frontline producer Hector Galan and correspondent Dave Marash retraced that 1,500-mile journey. The result is this chillingly effective documentary, New Harvest, Old Shame.

    Personalizing the 1990 version, the Frontline crew follows Pedro Silva and his extended family of 15 people. At the beginning of the season, in Indiana, their voices are optimistic. Heavy rainfall causes a reduction of the Indiana harvest - which results in a total of only $1,400 in earnings for the Silva family. Heading south, these migrants experience numerous truck breakdowns; a child becomes ill and requires emergency medical attention; and Hurricane Hugo wipes out crops they had hoped to harvest. Once they are back in Florida, life is little better. There are three workers for every farm job as undocumented workers swell the work force and increasing land development shrinks the crop totals. The success of farm labor organization efforts in the north (an eight-year struggle culminating in increased wages, health benefits, and one paid holiday - Labor Day) is contrasted with currently ongoing unionizing efforts in Florida.

    Segments from Edward R. Murrow's documentary and his voice-over narration precede and set up the present-day coverage. Using footage from television stations in Tampa, Saint Petersburg, Orlando, Indianapolis, Toledo, and Columbus, along with their own camerawork, the Frontline crew presents the migrants' world as it is today - basically unchanged in the past 30 years. There are startling visual similarities between Murrow's filmed insights and current shots. Scenes of open trucks loading workers at dawn in the 1960s in Florida give way to shots of school buses loading workers (also at dawn) in the 1990s. Footage of winter freeze and subsequent bread lines in Florida 30 years ago echo with Murrow's voice asserting the need for unemployment benefits; then the camera shifts quietly to snow-covered crops and more bread lines, as American workers in 1990 face hunger and lack of unemployment benefits.

    This is an excellent production, and dramatically presents the largely unchanged living conditions of the farm workers of today. The script, pace, and unrelenting visual parallels of journalists Murrow and Marash are merged by the producer into a riveting documentary that belongs in every public and academic library.

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