The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression: Critical Analysis of Interconnection

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American journalist and writer, John Steinbeck wrote a series of short articles for TSF news identifying vital affairs concerning the migrant workers/“new gypsies” and their backgrounds in California. Recognized together, as “The Harvest Gypsies”, the seven articles were all gathered into a nonfiction book later on. These articles helped illustrate how California - more specifically the United States government - had left behind hundreds of thousands of workers whose lives had been ravaged by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. These previously middle-class individuals were left with no other option, but to leave their previous homes in search of better opportunities elsewhere, and this was found in California. Even more, large-scale, corporate farms ill-treated these workers for their greatest profit. With the help of Tom Collins, a manager of a federal labor camp for migrant workers in California, these two men revealed the conditions not only in the federal labor camp that Collins managed, but also in the informal squatters’ settlement located throughout the Central Valley. They both had the same views regarding the rights of workers in their need for humane working conditions, need to support their family, and ultimately, to live with dignity.

Article 1 describes the continuous movement of migrants as they chased the crops ready all around the state. The migrants didn’t have anything, they were called names, and were excluded from everything, despite their services being called upon continuously by many industries. Steinbeck mentioned, 'The migrants are needed, and they are hated. […] They are never received into a community nor into the life of a community. Wanderers in fact, they are never allowed to feel at home in the communities that demand their services”.

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Article 2 was the most moving/heartfelt article written detailing the difficult life migrants have in places known as squatter's camps and the atrocious working conditions they have to put up with. Steinbeck recalled on the fall of migrant life as poverty and hunger started winning. kept increasing. He emphasized how the longer they remain in their current state, the further they cave into inhumanity; which is the result of an absolute loss of their dignity. Three families that migrated, each getting worse than the last further amplified his argument.

Article 3 was about the connection between small farmers and the migrant workers. The small farmers sympathized with the migrants because they realize that could happen to them. They treated each other kindly and small farm owners wanted to rally behind on protests to defend them.

Article 4 brought up the experimental camps being stationed for these workers and how successful they turned out to be without outside supervision, just managers, and different department heads. Steinbeck argued for more camps being set up.

Article 5 examined the typical experience a migrant receives when attempting to receive any form of help from the current community or government. Because they move around the clock, migrants don’t have a permanent residency and therefore, lack benefits, and therefore suffer as a whole.

Article 6 mentioned the foreign migrants being brought in; being able to survive on small wages, which endangered white laborers causing the foreign migrants to be deported swiftly.

Article 7, the final article, Steinbeck gave feedback on ways people could carry out the affairs of migrant workers. They were here to stay and prosper.

Robin A. Fanslow wrote an article for the American Folklife Center that was made into a collection of voices from the dust bowl; The Migrant Experience. The article mentions the background of the migrant families and the way they lost their money/land. “Voices from the Dust Bowl illustrates certain universals of human experience: the trauma of dislocation from one's roots and homeplace; the tenacity of a community's shared culture; and the solidarity within and friction among folk groups”. As the world war carried on, many joined, and the rest soaked up the fresh farm opportunities made available.

In the larger scope of our course, the articles written, relate to the Great Depression because the Dust Bowl worsened it, and the Dust Bowl is the reason why there were migrant families which eventually led to the New Deal. The Dust bowl amplified the economic clash of the Great Depression and led many on an anguished migration in their search for humane conditions and work. .The drought-stricken plains swept the region, causing devastation for people and their livestock that was destroyed. The natural disaster along with great dust storms left people no choice, but to seek opportunities elsewhere. Steinbeck referred to banks as monsters because people were struggling to hang on to the very little they had and once the banks started failing, they started to take back the land they owned so that they could sell it and make a profit which evidently caused people to lose everything. The new deal was brought into play later with three goals: relief, recovery, and reform attempts. The New Deal helped people in the United States; it helped them flourish.

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