The American Experience: Season 10, Episode 13

Surviving the Dust Bowl (2 Mar. 1998)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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In 1931 the rains stopped and the "black blizzards" began. Powerful dust storms carrying millions of tons of stinging, blinding black dirt swept across the Southern Plains--the panhandles ... See full summary »



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Title: Surviving the Dust Bowl (02 Mar 1998)

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Episode credited cast:
Lawrence Svobida (voice)
Himself - Narrator


In 1931 the rains stopped and the "black blizzards" began. Powerful dust storms carrying millions of tons of stinging, blinding black dirt swept across the Southern Plains--the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, western Kansas, and the eastern portions of Colorado and New Mexico. Topsoil that had taken a thousand years per inch to build suddenly blew away in only minutes. One journalist traveling through the devastated region dubbed it the "Dust Bowl." This American Experience film presents the remarkable story of the determined people who clung to their homes and way of life, enduring drought, dust, disease--even death--for nearly a decade. Less well-known than those who sought refuge in California, typified by the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," the Dust Bowlers who stayed overcame an almost unbelievable series of calamities and disasters. Written by Anonymous

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User Reviews

Well done but sad....
27 March 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

This is a very sad installment of "The American Experience". It's about the so-called 'Dust Bowl'--a portion of the American Midwest that became a virtual desert in the 1930s. Part of this was because there was a terrible drought and part of it was because the land had been so changed with HUGE farms and clear-cutting that there wasn't anything to hold the soil--and enormous dust storms were the norm. As a result, farms were completely destroyed and a lot of folks died as a result of lung-related illnesses (such as pneumonia) and starvation. Although it's associated with Oklahoma due to the novel "The Grapes of Wrath", it actually affected a much larger region--including Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. And, indirectly, giant dust storms effected a HUGE portion of America--with huge amounts of dust being deposited in places such as Chicago and Washington, DC.

All in all, a typically well made episode of "The American Experience", though a bit more wistful and sad than usual, that's for sure. In particular, when you hear a woman talking about the death of her brother due to the dust, after more than 60 years, there is still a lot of pain in her voice--and be sure to have some Kleenex handy just in case.

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