. In 1931 there was no better place to be a farmer than the Southern Plains. Plains farmers had turned the untamed prairie into a very prosperous land. The land was green and lush and when they turned the prairie sod over, it “looked like chocolate”
They accomplished this NOT with a horse and plow that could barely turn 3 acres of prairie sod a day They used a tractor..
“The people thought it would always be this way, they got the whole country plowed up and that’s about the time it turned terrible dry” In the summer of 1931 the rains stopped and the wheat withered in the fields
Without the grasses that originally held the fine soil in place, the land was turned into a desert. Parts of Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico became known as …
No one was prepared for what was to come. They were called.. The “Rollers”
“Rollers” were Dust Storms They appeared on the horizons with a thunderous roar. There were over 130 storms that began in 1934 and continued through 1937 The worst Dust Storm was on April 14, 1935 what people could call “Black Sunday” The clouds appeared on the horizons with a thunderous roar. Turbulent dust clouds rolled in generally from the North and dumped a fine silt over the land. Men, women and children stayed in their houses and tied handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths. When they dared to leave, they added goggles to protect their eyes. Houses were shut tight, cloth was wedged in the cracks of the doors and windows. During the storms, the air indoors was "swept" with wet gunny sacks. Sponges were used as makeshift "dust masks" and damp sheets were tied over the beds.
1927 - made 7,000 in cotton 1928 – broke even 1929 – went in the hole 1930 – still deeper 1921- lost everything 1932 – hit the road Texas farmer
I’ve seen the wind so high that it blowed my fences down, Buried by tractor six feet underground Woody Guthrie
In 1934 The Resettlement Administration was established. It was renamed The Farm Security Administration in 1937.
This “New Deal” program helped the poor farm families who took part. Families could save their farms and see their incomes rise. But for many others…
It was too late, many had to sell. Who Stayed, And Who Left?
One in Four left their farms, These “refugees” packed their belongings and headed West, to California.
With the return of the rain, dry fields soon overflowed with wheat. The harsh years of the Dust Bowl forced the farmers to accept the limits of the land When times turn dry again, will the wind blow and history repeat itself? Only time will tell Click here to return to Table of Contents
Activity #1 Choose one of these pictures by clicking on it. Complete your Photograph Interpretation Worksheet or create a one page story based on what you see in the photograph Activity #2 To Find out more about this famous Dust bowl image and the woman photographer who took this picture Click Here Click here to return to Table of Contents
Credit: "Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California." February, 1936. America from the Great Depression to World War II: Black-and-White Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945, Library of Congress Photographer Dorothea Lange was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1895. Lange is best known for her work documenting poor conditions of the migrant workers who traveled in large numbers to California during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s. Her photographs brought much-needed attention to their plight. Lange used photography to document the difficult period of the Depression and to motivate agencies and individuals to take action to improve the situation. With her photographs Lange was able to capture the emotional and physical toll that the Depression and other events took on human beings across the country. Click Here to view Dorothea’s Pictures
Dorothea Lange’s Californian Migrant Mother is one of the most widely known of all photographs. “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it“ (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).
The story of this tragic time in America’s history was captured in pictures by several remarkable photographers. Music is by Woody Guthrie, America’s folk musician who set his stories of everyday people living through the dustbowl and depression to music. Click Here to Start