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Lesson Number: Six (This will take 2-3 days.

Lesson Title: The Dust Bowl Years
Unit Title: The Great Depression and New Deal
Grade/Subject: Eighth Grade U.S. History from 1880
Teacher: Debra Krawetz

1. Expectations
From reading first hand accounts/articles, and viewing photo images of the
Dust Bowl period, students will be able to:
Identify the causes that led up to the Dust Bowl, empathize with the impact it had on people living
in the Dust Bowl region, and understand the response of New Deal program, the Agricultural
Adjustment Act (1933).

2. Engagement:
Day One:
• Students will be introduced to the Dust Bowl by use of a series of overheads. Display
handouts #1 and #2 on transparencies. Have them make hypothesize about how the Dust
Bowl will have an impact on people, and how the federal government will respond. The
prediction page is handout #3.
• Distribute Vocabulary Sheet, handout #3.
• Show images of the dust bowling using the pictures provided, or making a slide show on
PPT. –Handout #45 To extend this part of the lesson, ask students to select one image, and
to write about what happened before, during, and after the photo was snapped.
• Articles: Students will read the two articles (handouts #6 & #7.) FLEE DUST BOWL FOR
CALIF., and ALONG THE ROAD in small groups, discussing and writing answers to the
questions at the end of each article. After reading the two articles, students will write letters
to the editor of Business Week, or Fortune responding to the one of the pieces. In your
letter, students will comment about the conditions of the migrant farmers and what they
think must be done for them.
Day Two:
• The New Deal’s, Aka, Roosevelt’s, response to the farm crisis and Dust Bowl. Explain to
students that the Agricultural Adjustment Act and Agency, attempted to run programs to
teach \ better farming techniques and provide relief subsidies for farmers. Read Handout #9
and #10, and discuss the questions at the end of each page. Examine with students the
cartoons portray FDR. Which ones were supportive? Critical?

• Activity: Ask students to draw their own cartoons showing the benefits of the AAA and the
help it will give to farmers, or cartoons critical of the AAA.
Day Three:

• Critics of Farm Relief: Introduce the two articles (Handouts # 11 and #12) one form the St.
Paul Pioneer Press and The New York Times. Read and discuss the articles with the class
or in small groups and analyze why the farmers lost faith in the promises made in the New
Deal’s AAA program. Ask students if they feel that it was realistic to think that the New
Deal would be able to provide for everyone.
• Assignment (Handout #13) Have students write two articles, one supporting the New Deal
and farm relief programs, and the second critical of the support.

Note: Also see supplemental pages

3. Explanation:
After an introduction to the Dust Bowl, tell the students that they will view several images of the
Dust Bowl era, and make inferences about life in that time-period was like. Information will be
presented on how the New Deal addressed the massive drought through the Agricultural
Adjustment Act and Agency, and students will read articles on the Dust Bowl including stories
about storms, migrant work, and life in Calif., and articles and political cartoons from the mid to
late 30’s more critical of the New Deal and FDR. Each student will complete an assignment where
they will write two Dust Bowl era news articles, one in support of the New Deal and one more
critical of it.

4. Evaluation
The teacher will grade the articles the students write. Students will share their letters at the end of
class. The work will be collected, and will be graded on the following criteria:
• Demonstrates an understanding of period.
• Writes in a journalistic style, answering the 5 -W’s in each article
• New vocabulary Usage
• Grammar/Spelling..

5. Differentiation
Enlarged copies of handouts and transparencies will be made for students who have visual
difficulties. For note taking, students who have difficulty writing will be required to record less
information in their notebooks. Students’ articles will reflect their “best” understanding of the
material.. The students will be allowed to work with a peer or educational assistant if they choose,
or to only complete one news article.

6. Handouts and Materials

Films/Videos: *Add one more day to show a film

“The Plow that Broke the Plains”
“Surviving the Dust Bowl” (PBS)

Audio Interviews:

General Dust Bowl Websites:

Dorothea Lange, The Forgotten People:
FSA Photograph Collection:
New Deal Network:
Route 66:
Humanities Interactive:
Walther W. Stiern Library:
Lesson Six: Handout #1
The Dust Bowl (1931-1939)
was a series of dust storms
in the central U.S caused by
a massive drought and
decades of bad farming
techniques. During the Dust
Bowl, swirling black storm
clouds (some 800 ft. high)
appeared for days triggering
thunder and lightening, and making the sky appear black, at times all
the way to Chicago. This disaster left about 500,000 people mainly
from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas homeless.
Many took Route 66 to California to seek migrant farming work.
One of the worst days of the Dust Bowl was April 14, 1935, a day
called as, “Black Sunday.” On this day, “black blizzards” occurred
throughout the dust bowl region, causing extensive damage, turning
day to night, at times making it hard to see beyond five feet away.
Black Sunday, 4-14-33
QUOTE: “… a yellowish-
brown haze from the South
and in rolling walls of black
from the North. The simplest
acts of life - breathing, eating
a meal, taking a walk - were
no longer simple. Children
wore dust masks to and from
school, women hung wet
sheets over windows and
farmers watched helplessly as
their crops blew away.”
Lesson Six:: Handout #2

Dust Bowl Years: 1931-1939

The Dust Bowl extended the Depression, and affected 2,000,000
Americans. About 200,000 people were left homeless and migrated
out west to look for work. It affected the southern plains states
primary, but the northern plains experienced some drought, dust, and
farming decline as well. Roughly, 75% of the country was affected
by the drought. The states most severely hit were: OK, AK, TX, KS,
CO, and NM. Rain fell in the fall of 1939 ending the drought.
Lesson Six: Handout #3

Vocabulary List #3: The Dust Bowl

April 14, 1935, the worst day of the Dust Bowl with
1. Black Sunday “black blizzards” that turned day into night. This
storm caused extensive damage.
Dust storms in the southern plains states caused by
2. Dust Bowl a massive drought and decades of bad farming
techniques, from 1931-1939
A severe windstorm that sweeps clouds of dust
3. Dust Storms
across an extensive area, especially in a dry region.
The gradual wearing away of rock or soil, by wind,
4. Erosion
water or ice.
Federal Security Administration photographers
5. FSA Photographers
such as Dorothea Lange were recruited to give a
closer look at rural life during the Great Depression
A camp built on the outskirts of a town during the
Great Depression to house the homeless, named
6. Hoovervilles
after the then President Hoover who was blamed for
the poor economic
Bringing a water supply to a dry area in order to
7. Irrigation
help crops
Farmers who move from one region to another
8. Migrant Farmers
searching for work or better opportunities.
A derogatory term used in the 1930’s and 1940’s to
9. Okie describe migrant farm workers forced to flee their
farms; Residents from Oklahoma; Slang
A major migratory path west, used during the Dust
10. Route 66
Bowl years, that went from Chicago to California
A settlement consisting of crudely built shacks
during the Great Depression, appearing in cities
11. Shantytown
across the United States because of the massive
Lesson Six: Handout #4


Predict how the eight year drought What do you think the federal
will affected the lives of southern government should do to help
plain states residents and how will it farmers, and respond to the
impact the entire U.S….. destruction caused by the Dust Bowl?

Lesson Six: Handout # 5 (Five pages) “Migrant Mother”

By Dorothea Lange
Dust Bowl Image, FSA Photographers
The photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA)
documented the Great Depression, showing Americans at
home, work, and play, with an emphasis on rural and small-
town life. These images portrayed people making their way
out West or large cities to seek a better life. FSA
photographer Dorothea Lange’s image of “Migrant Mother”
is one of the most famous photographs from this period.

Dust Bowl Headline Montage:

Land and Sky Images of the
Dust Bowl
Dust Bowl Faces…
Route 66 to California by, Foot or Car:
“Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way that's the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66.” –Route 66

Farmers Receiving Relief Checks…

Ad to Advertise jobs for farmers.
Lesson Six: Handout # 6
Dust Bowl News Article
FLEE DUST BOWL FOR CALIFORNIA, Business Week, July 3, 1939

CALIFORNIA, California business men are watching with mixed emotions the current influx
of families from the Dust Bowl which, since Jan. 1, has brought more than 30,000 persons into
the state. . . . The influx is now averaging one immigrant outfit every ten minutes, and the trek
has only begun. . . . Many of the newcomers are competent farmers who have lost out in the
drought and are seeking greener fields in California. They're eager to work for wages on the
farms, to save what they can, and eventually buy land of their own. They're decidedly in the
minority. The rank and file are out to seek their fortunes in a land where, so they have been
told, living is easier. The relief office is the objective of many of these, and relief costs,
especially in the San Joaquin counties, are rising . . .. When the Dust Bowl people show up at
the San Joaquin farmer's door asking for work, they're usually welcome, especially as
heretofore employers have had to transport most of their laborers to the fields. Experience has
shown, too, that most of the newcomers won't have anything to do with farm labor organizers
for a time, at least, and this condition may tend to relieve the pressure of the agricultural unions
on California farmers during this harvest season . . .. The addition of so great an army of
immigrants to the farm areas is stimulating certain lines of retail business . . . The newcomers
must eat. They must buy a certain amount of clothing (shelter, water, and wood are furnished
by employers to those who work on the farms). The wages these people receive are providing
many of them with the first real cash they've had in months, and they're eager to buy.
Observers point out that much of this buying is not "healthy," that wages are going for down
payments on radios, automobiles, cheap jewelry, rather than for necessities. On the other side
of the picture, Mr. John Citizen, of the San Joaquin Valley, when questioned on the
unprecedented immigration throws up his hands. For every worker that presents himself at the
farmer's door asking for a job, another goes on relief with his entire family . . .. County
hospitals are crowded with free patients, many of them maternity cases, neatly timed for arrival
in California at the crucial moment. Schools are overwhelmed with new pupils . . .. A social
worker asked one man why he had come to California. He pulled two newspaper clippings
from his pocket, one from an Oklahoma paper and another from Texas. In them were unsigned
advertisements painting in glowing terms the wonderful opportunities to be found in
California. Are certain interests exploiting these people as ruthlessly as the steamship
companies did during the days of the great immigrations from southern Europe two or three
decades ago? Is here any doubt of it?
Questions to answer in your notebook:

1. What are the problems associated with the influx of large number of migrant workers in
2. What services are provided for migrants in California communities?
3. What is the effect of large numbers of migrant laborers on union organization in the state?
4. What comparison does the writer make between the migrant workers and the immigrants
that arrived two or three decades earlier? Is this comparison accurate? *Last sentence of
the article…
Lesson Six: Handout #7
Dust Bowl News Article
ALONG THE ROAD, Extracts from a Reporter's Notebook, Fortune, April 1939
CALIFORNIA- In April 1939, Fortune reported on its findings about the migrant problem in a
lengthy article entitled "I Wonder Where We Can Go Now." The magazine sent a reporter to California
to live among migrants in order to gather information for the article. The April issue of Fortune
included excerpts from the reporter's notebook with the feature article. The following are from the
reporter's notes.
In an effort to get located I went to the county camp near Shafter but when they found I did not have a
tent but was living in my car they refused me admission on the grounds that it would be embarrassing
to the people around me. I was just as glad as this camp was one of the dirtiest that I had seen. I
decided to stay on the desert but I found that the health authorities were driving them off the desert and
trying to get them into the county camp. I tried to get space in a pay camp. There I was told . . . “I'd
like to rent you a space but I'm full up. I charge $2 a month. I've had to turn away seventy-five people
in the last few days.” . . . So I decided to see if I could make it on the desert. The idea was to drive out
about a mile or two from town sometime around dusk and then set up camp. There would generally be
a dozen or more others coming on right up until dark and soon their campfires could be seen.
One night I talked to a group of family people. There were three in the family, husband and wife,
nineteen and eighteen respectively, and the boy's seventeen-year-old sister.. They gave the following as
their yearly routine: spuds at Shafter, 'cots other side of Merced, Marysville for prunes and hops, then
to the Big Valley (couldn't remember the name of it) for tomatoes. This took about six months of the
year, which was their full working period . . ..
The costume of the men is almost uniform. The trousers are invariably blue jeans. These, like the rest
of their clothes, are many times patched and mended, usually very neatly. The clothes of the young
boys are replicas of their fathers' except that they may go barefooted occasionally.
Several cases of typhoid have appeared in the area [Imperial Valley] since I have been here. This is due
to their habit of drinking "ditchwater," or that water which flows through the irrigation ditches. An
epidemic was avoided only because a great many were vaccinated. There are at least eight, and
possibly more, cases of pellagra in the camp. The cure for this disease, which may be fatal, is green
vegetables or red meat. However, they have eaten starchy foods for so long that they no longer have a
taste for meats and vegetables. When the doctor told one woman to feed meat to her family, she replied
that they didn't like meat and wouldn't eat it.
These people aren't relief-minded. I've seen them around where relief was being given out. They'd ask
what the line-up was about, then say, "I've got two bucks left, I expect to get work next week, I don't
want no relief.”

Questions to answer in your notebook:

What is the reporter's impression of conditions among the migrants?

Describe the migrants’ account of their lives.
What is mentioned about tell the importance of sanitation and diet?
Explain the journalist’s statement, “These people aren't relief-minded.”

Lesson Six: Handout #8


After reading the two articles, ALONG THE ROAD and FLEE DUST BOWL
FOR CALIFORNIA, write a letter to the editor of Business Week, or
Fortune responding to the one of the pieces. In your letter,
comment about the conditions of the migrant farmers and what you
think must be done for them. Do you agree with the content of the
articles? Mention who (community, State of Calif., or federal
government) you feel should take care of these farmers.

Write from one of these roles:

1. A social worker or public health professional working with

migrant farming families.
2. A teenage migrant farm worker.
3. A migrant worker new to California who has six children who
lives in a “shantytown.”
4. A farmer who hires hundreds of migrant laborers and feels the
conditions and work hours of the migrant workers are sufficient.
5. Mayor of a town where migrant farmers reside.
6. A migrant farmer who became a labor union organizer.
7. A spokesperson for the Associated Farmers Organization.
Lesson Six: Handout #9

FDR’s Statement on Signing the Farm Relief Bill, May 12, 1933
“I have just signed the Farm Relief Bill, which includes the refinancing of
farm debts. The Act extends relief not only to farmer borrowers, but to
mortgage creditors as well.
Holders of farm mortgages will have the privilege of exchanging them for
Federal Land Bank bonds, the interest payments upon which are to be guaranteed by the
Treasury of the United States. Farmers whose mortgages are to be exchanged for these bonds
will reap the benefit of lower interest rates and more liberal terms of payment.

It is to the interest of all the people of the United States that the benefits of this Act should be
extended to all who are in need of them and that none should be deprived of them through
ignorance or precipitate action. For this reason, I appeal particularly to mortgage creditors and
all others who have money claims against farmers. Every effort will be made to administer the
Act promptly, considerately, and justly.

All preparation that could be made in advance by officers of the Federal Land Bank system has
been made. However, applications cannot be acted upon instantly. Time for examination,
appraisal, and perfection of records will be necessary.

I urge upon mortgage creditors, therefore, until full opportunity has been given to make
effective the provisions of the mortgage refinancing sections of the Farm Relief Act, that they
abstain from bringing foreclosure proceedings and making any effort to dispossess farmers
who are in debt to them. I invite their cooperation with the officers of the land banks, the
agents of the Farm Loan Commissioner and their farmer debtors to effect agreements which
will make foreclosures unnecessary. This is in line both with public duty and private interest.”

The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1936:

The Agricultural Adjustment Act (Public law 73-10 of May 12, 1933) restricted production
during the New Deal by paying farmers to reduce crop area. Its purpose was to reduce crop
surplus to raise the value of crops, thereby giving farmers relative stability again. The farmers
were paid subsidies by the federal government for leaving some of their land idle. The Act
created a new agency, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), to oversee the
distribution of the subsidies.


1. Give 3-4 concrete examples of how FDR “tried” to support

farmers from the statement he made when signing the “Farm Relief Bill” of
2. What were the main goals of the Agricultural Adjustment
Lesson Six: Handout #10
Political Cartoons on Farming Crisis Cartoon #2

Cartoon #1

Cartoon #3


1. In cartoon #1, what is the view of

congress on how much the
government should help in the farm
crisis and depression? Why is
congress “rushing” out the door?
2. In cartoon #2, what is the attitude of
the farmers to FDR? –Give
examples. Explain the caption,
“Sure, I’ll try anything once.”
3. Explain “why” FDR is dressed as a painter in cartoon #3? What does
the paint symbolize here? Is this a positive portrayal of FDR or not?
Farm Relief Response Lesson Six: Handout #11

St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jan. 1937

This article below from the St. Paul Pioneer Press states that the edifice that
FDR’s administration build to help farmers has collapsed, and that farm
relief has to go back to the drawing board. The newspaper states, “They [the
farmers] have built up a prosperous commercial agriculture in the past, and
will not believe that this prosperity is beyond recapture.” Many farmers
became critical of the “New Deal” and Roosevelt that he wasn’t following
through with its promises to them.

What can you “infer” from this article, written 4 years after
the AAA was established, about what happened with the New
Deal and FDR’s efforts to help farmers? How is the Pioneer
Press critical of Roosevelt?
Farm Relief Response Lesson Six: Handout #12
New York Times, August 1936
This article is critical of the New Deal’s promises to farmers

What can you “infer”

from this NYT piece,
published 3 years after the
AAA was established,
about why the farmers
became major critics of
the New Deal? What went
Lesson Six: Handout #13 *Optional. This can be enrichment or and homework assignment.


Directions: Below are (2) Dust Bowl photos. TITLE and WRITE a 1-page news article
to accompany each picture. Date your articles some time in 1936 or 1937, a few years
after the AAA agency was established. Use information from the articles read in class.
• Article #1 will be in support of the New Deal and help FDR is providing farmers.
• Article #2 will be critical of FDR because he’s forgotten his promises to the


Farmers receiving their “Farm Relief” checks. Dust Bowl damaged farm in Oklahoma, with a
The feel that FDR has made good on his tractor stuck in dust. This farm is abandoned,
promises. and there is no help in sight.

Title: Title:

Article Ideas: Article Ideas:

Supplemental Resources: Lesson Six: Handout #14

Dust Bowl News Articles:

From Historic NYT