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Voices from the Dustbowl
Produced by Barrett Golding
Edited by Jeff Rogers

Emmett
Frank and Myra Pipkins being recorded by Charles Todd. 1941 Photo by Robert Herring. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

  • Listen with RealAudio in 14.4, 28.8, or G2 SureStream.
  • Sonkin and Todd kept a journal of their experiences.
  • Read a listing of Names of Dustbowl Refugees heard in this story.
  • For more information about the Dust Bowl, visit the American Folklife Center, library of congress.

    In 1940 two sound recordists, Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin, traveled to the California central valley-- the flat, agricultural land that Steinbeck wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath. There, hundreds of refugees from Arkansas and Oklahoma had gathered- an exodus from their drought ridden and Depression ravaged homelands. Dispatched by the Library of Congress, Todd and Sonkin set off to create an audio oral history of the lives of these Dust Bowl refugees.

    Many of the refugee farmers made their new homes in Migratory Labor Camps, created for them by the Farm Security Administration. There, despite great poverty and displacement, they created a vibrant community. The sounds of their new lives-- the storytelling, love ballads, debates and square dance calls of a people in transit-- were captured in these evocative recordings by Todd, Sonkin and a fifty pound "Presto" disc recorder.


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    Copyright 2000 The Kitchen Sisters