Annotated Bibliography: Dust Bowl Bibliography Annotated

Pages: 7 (2245 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Shindo's cultural history examiners how Dorothea Lange, Jogn Steinbeck, John Ford and Woody Guthrie created images and myths about the Dust Bowl migrants that made them symbolic of the Great Depression, even though their views of what the migrants should be were quite different from how they actually saw themselves. Even today, these images of Henry Fonda playing Tom Joad still dominate popular culture's understanding of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, even if the reality is somewhat different. Dorothea Lange and the other Farm Security Administration photographers created a lasting iconography of the displaced, rural white migrants of the depression, while Woody Guthrie memorialized them in his Dust Bowl Ballads of 1940. These were images and songs that showed the migrants as displaced persons and rural laborers, living in shacks and slums, experiencing breadlines, poverty, homelessness and brutality from police and employers. So did John Steinbeck in his novel The Grapes of Wrath in 1939 and the John Ford film a year later, although the latter was more sensitive to their cultural conservatism than most other works of the time. Although the migrants were political and economic populists who certainly would have agreed that the American capitalist system had badly malfunctioned in the 1930s -- a fact which was obvious to all observers -- they did not se themselves as proletarians or a rural workforce. They were plain folk and fiercely independent small farmers, with 19th Century values, religion and culture very different from that of urban California. There desire was of own land, not to remain workers in the fields, and after World War II they began to achieve upward mobility into the middle class, so much so that their descendants in the 1960s and 1970s ended up conservative Republicans and supporters of Ronald Reagan. Their values of self-sufficiency, independence, God, traditional family and Moral Majority Protestantism made them reactionary and part of a New Right coalition rather than a New Left one.

Stanley, Jerry. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. Crown Books for Young Readers, 1993.

This is the true story of a segregated school for migrant workers near Bakersfield, California in the 1930s, which was highly unusual since these were white children blocked from attending the same schools as other white children who were from the local area. In fact, the migrants were forced to start their own schools, and were quite offended at being treated in the same manner that Asians, blacks and Hispanics had long been used to in California.

Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930's. Oxford University Press, 1979.

Worster was a native of the southern plains and was concerned that another Dust Bowl might take place in the future unless more ecologically sound agricultural practices were adopted there. He studied the effect of New Deal conservation policies, especially in Dust Bowl centers like Cimarron County, Oklahoma and Haskell County, Kansas, and points out that these were largely abandoned when higher prices for wheat returned in the Second World War. Few people live in the southern plains today, where highly mechanized factory farms are the norm, but the climate remains harsh and unforgiving and the weather extreme. These areas are still a vital source of grain for the world, but the cultural and economic legacy of abuse of the land for short-term gain is thoroughly engrained. In the 19th and 20th Centuries, Americans failed to adapt to this environment and created environmental disasters like the Dust Bowl. Pioneer farmers and speculators were determined to 'bust' the land and they succeeded in just fifty years, although the results were far worse than they ever imagined. Both the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression were interrelated crises that reflected the failure of the American culture of short-term gain and out-of-control exploitation of human and natural resources that led to a collapse. Nature itself was seen as a form of capital to be mined for profit and self-advancement by both individuals and corporations, and on the factory farms of the 1920s, little thought was given to conservation of land and water resources. These large scale enterprises even became models for Stalinist collective farming in the Soviet Union, which often produced truly horrendous results for the land and people of that country.

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Dust Bowl Bibliography Annotated.  (2011, March 9).  Retrieved September 16, 2019, from

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"Dust Bowl Bibliography Annotated."  March 9, 2011.  Accessed September 16, 2019.