OKIES IN THE DUST BOWL ERA


From Wikipedia comes this brief description:


 

The Dust Bowl, also known as the "Dirty Thirties", was a series of dust storms caused by a massive drought and decades of inappropriate farming techniques that began in 1930 and lasted until 1941. This ecological disaster caused a mass exodus from the Oklahoma Panhandle region and also the surrounding Great Plains. Around 300,000 to 400,000 Americans were displaced. Topsoil across millions of acres was blown away because the indigenous sod had been broken for wheat farming and the vast herds of buffalo were no longer fertilizing the rest of the native grasses.

 

It is well known that there was economic instability in agriculture during the 1920s, due to overproduction following World War I. National and international market forces during the war had caused farmers to push the agricultural frontier beyond its natural limits. Increasingly, marginal land that would now be considered unsuitable for use was developed to capture profits from the war. After the land had been stripped of its natural vegetation, the ecological balance of the plains was destroyed, leaving nothing to hold the soil when the rains dried up and the winds came in the 1930s.

 

With their crops ruined, lands barren and dry, and homes foreclosed for unpayable debts, thousands of farm families loaded their belongings into beat-up Fords and followed Route 66 to California. Many of the displaced were from Oklahoma, where 15% of the state's population left. The migrants were called "Okies," whether or not they were from Oklahoma. High end estimates for the number of displaced Americans are as high as 2.5 million, but the lower value of 300,000 to 400,000 [Oklahomans] is more probable based upon the 2.3 million population of Oklahoma at the time. [Edition supplied]


John Steinbeck's classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, tells part of the story. Whether living in or out of the state, Oklahomans wherever located have ever since been labled, "OKIES". Even though, today, many of us who live here wear that cheap-shot title as a badge of honor, it was not always so.


The images on the main page give a taste of the disaster, tragedy, and suffering during that 10-11 year era. All images are either "of" Okies who'd moved West, or are "from" Oklahoma during the time. The dust storms are surreal in their presentation, almost not believable, but for the fact that the photos don't lie.


One particular day, April 14, 1935, is known as "Black Sunday" throughout all of the central plains. At www.scholastic.com the day is described:

Cyclonic winds traveling at speeds up to 100 miles per hour rolled out of the Dakotas and traveled quickly across Nebraska, Kansas, eastern Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Dirt clouds churned 20,000 feet into the air and created a thousand-mile-wide duster.
The main page contains Oklahoma images of Black Sunday. Here are two others.

blackdodge.jpgDodge City, Kansas

 

blackspearman.jpgSpearman, Texas

 


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