chapter  1
19 Pages

Nature and Apocalypse: Okies and the New Deal in California

In today’s popular memory of the Great Depression no single narrative stands out more sharply than the story of Oklahoma farmers blown off their land and trekking westward to fi nd work in California. Everyone from earnest academics to writers, artists and the journalists of the mass media paid attention to the Okies. Progressive economists and sociologists, like Paul Schuster Taylor and Carey McWilliams, sought to analyze and explain their plight. Through the Farm Security Administration (FSA) the New Deal sent photographers like Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein to cover the story, and their pictures were widely circulated in the popular press. Woody Guthrie provided the words and music. Above all the Okies’ predicament was dramatized in the fi ction of John Steinbeck.