Segments in this Video

Dust Storm (06:52)


In 1935, a major dust storm, caused by years of wheat farming, drought, and high temperatures, hit the United States. It was a sustained natural disaster amid the Great Depression.

No Man's Land (10:34)

Most of the country had experienced a drought in the 1930s, but conditions were poorest in the Oklahoma panhandle. Residents share their memories of living there during the Dust Bowl.

New Deal and CCC (05:05)

Dust Bowl areas received relief through programs such as the WPA and the Citizens Conservation Corps. The CCC put young men to work planting barrier trees to stop the dust storms.

Saving the Plains (06:14)

Many worried the dust storms would continue and wheat could not be planted; the plains became a major policy issue. Some farmers received loans to move to other places; President Roosevelt worked for other solutions.

Leaving Drought Areas (11:19)

Dust Bowl residents talk about their families' decision to leave the plains. Many families split up, with those who could work going to California.

Journey to California (04:32)

Many left the plains in search of work or to escape the dust. They joined other Americans displaced by the Great Depression on a journey west. Hear the Crabill's story.

Reaching California (08:23)

Harry Forester worked a variety of jobs and sent the money to his family in Oklahoma. Hear their experience of reaching California after a long trip from Oklahoma.

Life in the Dust Bowl (07:22)

For those who stayed in the plains, farming became difficult. Many turned to poking fun at the dust storms to cope with their situation. Photographers arrived to capture images for the federal government.

Visits to the Dust Bowl (04:44)

Roosevelt took a tour through the plains to see the crisis firsthand. The Soil Conversation Committee was trying to find a way to save the plains and convince farmers to try different methods.

"Okies" in California (08:25)

Despite where they had moved from, all the newcomers from the plains were called Okies. They were discriminated against at the same level as African-Americans. Woody Guthrie sang free concerts for Okies and politicized his music to help them.

Fresh Starts in California? (05:52)

The California government started arresting people entering the state for being vagrants. Many encountered hard labor and were forced to move around to find work amid discrimination.

Struggling Communities (08:04)

In 1937, a snowfall gave Dust Bowl residents hope, but a dust storm followed. The droughts had ended throughout most of the country, but it was the worst year in the Dust Bowl causing the farmers to organize.

Implementing the Soil Conversation Committee's Plan (10:15)

The federal government was moving forward with the plan to turn unused land back into grasslands and provide incentives to farmers. Roosevelt visited the Dust Bowl; it rained during his speech.

End of the Dust Bowl (06:16)

The drought ended and wheat was planted, causing the end of the dust storms. Residents talk recall the rain and wheat returning.

Modern Irrigation (05:30)

Modern systems allow farmers to use groundwater for corps. There are concerns about water depletion and the effect it will have on the land.

Credits: Reaping the Whirlwind (02:37)

Credits: Reaping the Whirlwind

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Reaping the Whirlwind

Part of the Series : Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Following "Black Sunday," the crucible of dust, drought and Depression only intensifies. Many people on the southern Plains, including an itinerant songwriter named Woody Guthrie, give up and join a "migration of the defeated" to California. There they are branded as "Okies" and face vicious discrimination. Meanwhile, Caroline Henderson and her neighbors struggle to hang on to their land. Franklin Roosevelt's administration attempts to help them through New Deal programs aimed at preventing the breadbasket of America from becoming a Sahara. Survivors recount their families' desperate times, their joy at the rains' return, and the lessons learned--and sometimes forgotten--from the Dust Bowl.

Length: 113 minutes

Item#: BVL131310

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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