The Dust Bowl


The Dust Bowl (2012) chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the wheat boom of the Great Plow-Up, followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s, nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation.

  • Dust Storms | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

    View images of crippling storms taken during The Dust Bowl, including the “Black Sunday” storm, one of the worst dust storms in American history. The Dust Bowl was a region of the Southwestern Great Plains of the United States that experienced crippling drought throughout the 1930s, coupled with high winds and soil erosion from years of aggressive and ill-conceived farming practices that upset the ecology of the prairie. The dust storms created from this mix of drought, poor soil, and high winds were so severe they blackened out the sun, choked people and cattle, and drove thousands of families from their homes.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Depictions of the Dust Bowl | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

    View images of famous Dust Bowl chroniclers, including folk singer Woody Guthrie, writer and journalist Sanora Babb, and photographers Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein. The Dust Bowl was a region of the Southwestern Great Plains of the United States that fell into an ecologically disastrous state during the 1930s. A combination of aggressive and poor farming techniques, coupled with drought conditions in the region, created massive dust storms that drove thousands from their homes and created a large migrant population of poor, rural Americans. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Migrant Families | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

    View images of families displaced by the Dust Bowl to places like California, where they often lived under poor conditions in migrant camps. The Dust Bowl was a region of the Southwestern Great Plains of the United States that stretched 150,000 square miles across Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and parts of Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico. The region fell into an ecologically disastrous state during the 1930s. A combination of aggressive and poor farming techniques, coupled with drought conditions in the region, created massive dust storms that drove thousands of poor, rural Americans from their homes. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • A Man-Made Ecological Disaster | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

    View images of farmers, and members of the U.S. Government’s Soil Conservation Service, which was developed to help save the soil and the land. The Dust Bowl was the greatest man-made ecological disaster in the history of the United States. It encompassed a region 150,000 square miles long, across Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandles, and parts of Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico. A combination of aggressive and poor farming techniques, coupled with drought conditions in the region and high winds created massive dust storms that drove thousands from their homes and created a large migrant population of poor, rural Americans during the 1930s. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Great Depression | Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

    Explore images highlighting life during the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a decade-long period of severe economic distress in the United States, beginning with Black Tuesday stock market crash in October of 1929. Fifteen million Americans were unemployed at the height of the depression, and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed. During this same period, the Dust Bowl in the Southwestern Great Plains of the United States would drive thousands of poor, rural migrants out of their homes in search of food, shelter, and work. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt launched a New Deal plan to restore public confidence, reform the banking industry, create jobs, and rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

    Grades: 6-12

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