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Essay by
  • Niall Conway
in response to
Essay by Paul Noguchi

Paul Noguchi was a Seabrook resident for 18 years from 1945 to 1963. During those 18 years, Seabrook's culturally diverse community shaped Noguchi's life, through the interactions he had with Estonians, Germans, Jamaicans, and Puerto Ricans. In "I remember bean-picking at Seabrook," Noguchi provided an account of the camaraderie that existed among the bean pickers working in the fields, and the harsh directive from management that required them to meet daily "mysterious" picking quotas. Workers typically picked crops for 15 hours a day and even longer during harvest season. Some of workers would soak their baskets in water to increase their weight in order to meet their weight quota. Noguchi tells the story of picking beans with a diverse group of people while weathering the outdoor elements. He provides an inside account of a bean-picking subculture that emerged despite the workers' different backgrounds. Noguchi's account reveals how a shared purpose could unite Seabrook Farms' diverse workers, even if these moments were rare because Seabrook Farms often controlled its workers through a racial division of labor and segregated housing. The Jamaicans' and Puerto Ricans' "good natured" offering of extra beans allowed other workers to meet their weight quota. Noguchi's Estonian friend made a bean-picking joke that was likely appreciated across the different cultures: "I can't pick beans - the wind blows." These encounters shaped Noguchi's views of people from various backgrounds while working under the control and surveillance of Seabrook Farms.