The Dust Bowl Odyssey
The "Dust Bowl" phenomenon occurred throughout western Oklahoma and Kansas and in the Texas panhandle. Severe drought during the 1930's had led to massive agricultural failures in the Southwest. These areas had been heavily overcultivated by the wheat farmers for the last decades and were covered with millions of acres of loose, uncovered topsoil. Without precipitation the crops withered and died. The topsoil, which did not have any anchoring roots, was picked up by the winds and carried in billowing clouds across the region. Huge dust storms blew across the area, at times blocking out the sun and even suffocating those caught unprepared.
The Grapes of Wrath recounts the story of the Great Depression in Southwest America. By the mid-1930s, the drought had destroyed multitudes of farm families, and America had fallen into the Great Depression. Unable to pay their mortgages or invest in the kinds of industrial equipment now required, many Dust Bowl farmers were forced to leave their land. Without employment, thousands of families traveled to California in hopes of finding new means of survival. But the farm country of California quickly became overcrowded with the migrant workers.
Jobs and food were scarce, and the migrants faced prejudice and hostility from the Californians, who labeled them "Okies." These workers and their