A film by Ken Burns, THE DUST BOWL, chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the “Great Plow-Up,” followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.
Rothstein’s boss, Roy Stryker, believed that pictures could be a powerful tool to show not only the multitude of problems the nation was facing, but what the government was doing about them.
Over the course of seven years, as the agency became part of the Farm Security Administration, Stryker would launch an unprecedented documentary effort, eventually amassing more than 200,000 images of America in the 1930s taken by a talented cadre of photographers, including Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Marion Post Walcott, John Vachon, and Dorothea Lange.
Below is a small sampling of items found at the Central Library. Click on image to view the catalog.