Carlos Bulosan, “Freedom From Want”
When Norman Rockwell’s famous painting ran in The Saturday Evening Post, it was accompanied by an essay written by Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino American migrant worker. His essay about labor, farm life, and hunger offers a stunning juxtaposition against Rockwell’s imagining of a white, middle-class family’s holiday feast.
We have been marching for the last 150 years. We sacrifice our individual liberties, and sometimes we fail and suffer. Sometimes we divide into separate groups and our methods conflict, though we all aim at one common goal. The significant thing is that we march on without turning back. What we want is peace, not violence. We know that we thrive and prosper only in peace.
We are bleeding where clubs are smashing heads, where bayonets are gleaming. We are fighting where the bullet is crashing upon armorless citizens, where the tear gas is choking unprotected children. Under the lynch trees, amidst hysterical mobs. Where the prisoner is beaten to confess a crime he did not commit. Where the honest man is hanged because he told the truth.
We are the sufferers who suffer for natural love of man for another man, who commemorate the humanities of every man. We are the creators of abundance.
We are the desires of anonymous men. We are the subways of suffering, the well of dignities. We are the living testament of a flowering race.
But our march to freedom is not complete unless want is annihilated. The America we hope to see is not merely a physical but also a spiritual and an intellectual world. We are the mirror of what America is. If America wants us to be living and free, then we must be living and free. If we fail, then America fails.
What do we want? We want complete security and peace. We want to share the promises and fruits of American life. We want to be free from fear and hunger.
— Carlos Bulosan, Filipino American migrant worker, 1943
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be