The Dirty Thirties

Tonight, notable documentary filmmaker Ken Burns next project will premiere on American PBS stations. Considered to be the worst man made disaster in American history, it becomes an intriguing footnote to public television’s scheduling given the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy and the spirited renewal of climate change to the cultural vernacular post-election.

In advance of the film premiere tonight, Chronicle Books has published a companion book that showcases the brutal destruction and haunting imagery of vast expanses of black dust clouds that descended upon the American Plains.

“The Dust Bowl” is a riveting chronicle, which accompanies a documentary to be broadcast on PBS in the fall, Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns capture the profound drama of the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Terrifying photographs of mile-high dust storms, along with firsthand accounts by more than two dozen eyewitnesses, bring to life this heart-wrenching catastrophe, when a combination of drought, wind, and poor farming practices turned millions of acres of the Great Plains into a wasteland, killing crops and livestock, threatening the lives of small children, burying homesteaders’ hopes under huge dunes of dirt. Burns and Duncan collected more than 300 mesmerizing photographs, some never before published, scoured private letters, government reports, and newspaper articles, and conducted in-depth interviews to produce a document that may likely be the last recorded testimony of the generation who lived through this defining decade.

“Dakota Sky” is a story about Joe Schultz and his family surviving the Dirty Thirties on a farm six miles northeast of Hosmer, South Dakota. The story is fiction based on the life experiences and impressions of the author from the Dust Bowl days through WWII, Korean Police Action and into the 1990′s.

“Children of the Dust Bowl” is a true story which took place at the emergency farm-labor camp immortalized in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Ostracized as “dumb Okies,” the children of Dust Bowl migrant laborers went without school–until Superintendent Leo Hart and 50 ‘Okie’ children built their own school in a nearby field.

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