Ken Burns Classroom


Ken Burns Film: The Dust Bowl

Collections: The Great Depression and WWII (1929-1945)

Subject: Civics Earth Science Government Language Arts US History

Grade Level: 7-12

Video Run Time: 4:20

In 1935, 850 million acres of topsoil are swept off the Great Plains, with more dust storms to come. President Franklin Roosevelt’s inner circle does not want the area to turn into an “Arabian Desert.” Policy struggles within the Roosevelt administration center around Henry Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, who thinks new agricultural policies could keep farmers on their land. But Interior Secretary Harold Ickes questions whether any attempt should be made to save the land or the people of the Dust Bowl. The Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency, is established to provide low-interest loans to help people restart… somewhere else. The Roosevelt administration also created the Soil Conservation Service, an agency whose job it was to teach better agricultural practices to the nation’s farmers.