The Dust Bowl and Migrant Farm Workers
Frameworks for America's Past
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Originating Page

Below:  A map showing the "Dust Bowl" area that was most
affected by a severe drought (lack of rain) in the 1930s.  Many thousands
of farms in the area went bankrupt when they could not produce a crop to sell.

Below:  A small town in Texas in 1935 as a dust storm was about to hit.

Below:  A farm in Texas with all its crops ruined for lack of rain,
and wind-blown dirt piled up against the house.


The migrant farm workers

Below:  Hundreds of thousands of people from the Dust Bowl area headed to California
with their belongings to try to find work harvesting crops on farms there.

Below:  Migrant families often formed campgrounds near farms in California that
they hoped would hire them at harvest time.  Desperate for work, they would
take whatever wages were offered, just to earn enough money to buy food.

Writer John Steinbeck is famous for his novel about the migrant farm
workers during the Great Depression, titled The Grapes of Wrath.

The story showed the strength of character of the migrant farm
families and their determination to get through the hard times.

Click here for a YouTube video that describes
Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Many of the migrant farm families that went to California to find work, like the one
shown below, were from Oklahoma.  As a result, the nickname "Okies" was given to
many of the migrant workers.  

Rain returns to the Dust Bowl - 1939

In 1939 and 1940 rain began returning to normal levels on the Great Plains.
  Families like the one shown below could finally plant and harvest crops. 
The photo shows the family harvesting beets on their farm in Kansas.

Map by David Burns.  All photos except the Texas dust storm are from the
Library of Congress.  The dust storm photo is from the National Oceanic &
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) historic photos collection.
Some have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2012 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.