New Ken Burns Film Premieres November 18th
The Dust Bowl chronicles this critical moment in American history in all its complexities and profound human drama. It is part oral history, using compelling interviews of 26 survivors of those hard times—what will probably be the last recorded testimony of the generation that lived through the Dust Bowl. Filled with seldom seen movie footage, previously unpublished photographs, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the observations of two remarkable women who left behind eloquent written accounts, the film is also a historical accounting of what happened and why during the 1930s on the southern Plains. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.
The Dust Bowl, a two-part, four-hour documentary series by Ken Burns, will air November 18 and 19 at 8:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS / WHTJ PBS.
In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, wheat prices collapsed. Rather than follow the government’s urging to cut back on production, desperate farmers harvested even more wheat in an effort to make up for their losses. Fields were left exposed and vulnerable to a drought, which hit in 1932.
Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the Plains with sand, and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed often fatal "dust pneumonia," business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide, and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States has ever seen.
Yet The Dust Bowl is also a story of heroic perseverance against enormous odds: families finding ways to survive and hold on to their land, New Deal programs that kept hungry families afloat, and a partnership between government agencies and farmers to develop new farming and conservation methods.