BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A powerful exhibition of photographs is on display at the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. The display exposes how child labor laws were violated in Biloxi seafood factories in the early 1900s. The photographs were part of an effort to reveal abuses around the country.
Sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine used his camera to bring about social reform in the early 20th century. His dramatic photos were powerful instruments in changing child labor laws in America.
The immorality of child labor was hidden from public view. As a photographer, Hine was threatened with violence and even death by factory police and owners for his mission to capture images of child exploitation.
It was dangerous undercover work as Hine used his camera in Biloxi to show child labor happening in the seafood industry.
"That's what Lewis Hine was doing, sneaking into the factories, putting on disguises. He would pretend to be a fireman or a Bible salesman and he would wait until the bosses were away and take pictures to shine a light on the kids," said Michelle Peterson with the museum.
She continued: "You can clearly see these kids are too young to be working."
In the course of putting this exhibit together, Peterson did research on child labor laws and the violations exposed by Hine's photographs/
"There were child labor laws in place that said they had to be 12 years or older and you could only work ten hour work days," she explained. "All these kids are under 12 and all worked more than ten hours a day. They ignored the child labor laws."
It was a dark chapter in American history. While the images are frightening, the Biloxi seafood industry was a family affair and fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters did work together in the factories.
The Lewis Hine photo exhibition is an interesting history lesson at the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. The exhibit will be on display through May.