The 1930’s felt like the end of the world in western Oklahoma. Month after month the sky grew dark, the air made people choke, livestock died and crops turned to dust. For a decade, the great plains were hit with dust storm after dust storm as a result of unsustainable farming practices, and the panhandle of Oklahoma was nicknamed the bull’s eye of the Dust Bowl. Short on cash, food and work, many farmers and share-croppers gave up on the possibility of survival in the state and migrated to California. In this short documentary, folk musician and historian Tom Naples walks us through the dust bowl and tunes us into archival recordings and oral histories of the people who lived through the misery of those dark days.
Excerpts from oral history interviews are from the Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry: Oklahoma Women in the Dust Bowl Oral History Project, courtesy of the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, Oklahoma State University Library with funding provided by the Puterbaugh Professorship of Library Service.
Additional archival tape, including Roy Turner’s poem Hard Luck Okie, is provided by “The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.“