The Dust Bowl – Documenting the First Migrants to California

The dirty thirties or the infamous Dust Bowl is practically a dark phase in the US history of severe dust storms greatly affecting and destroying the ecology and agriculture of the US and Canadian prairies covering major parts of 1930s. Concurrent draughts and inability to implement dry land farming methods to curtail wind erosion was the major cause behind. Draughts followed this in 1934. 1936 and 1939-1940.

The severe draught and dust storms destructed over 100.000 acres of farmland rendering a major population of this area jobless. There was a population bloom in California in the early part of the twentieth century as the Dust Bowl affected refuges headed for California, mainly the homeless, landless farmers from Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico in the search of a good life, hoping to start afresh and develop a fortune. However, the administration was in a dilemma on how to absorb these huge immigrants.

It was Photographer Dorothea Lange and her husband, the first to witness and to understand the basic reason of the huge migration to California in the 1930s: the fearful farmers desperate to escape the Dust Bowl. Dorothea Lange joined the Rural Rehabilitation Division of the California State emergency Relief Administration in 1935, which was a section of the Federal emergency relief administration. Her basic job consisted of photographing the ever-increasing number of homeless Dust Bowl refugees migrating to California. Later she worked with Paul S. Taylor, a research scholar at university of California.

Lange efficiently described her photographing the first vehicle arriving at California with the refugees. A nationwide premier is scheduled for August 29, 9-11 PM on PBS titled “American Masters: Dorothea Lange.”

 

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