Required readings: 

Recommended readings if you are interested in learning more: 

"Next Time Try the Train" by Dorthea Lange, WPA.
“Next Time Try the Train” by Dorthea Lange, WPA.


Guided Reading and Watching Questions

1) What reoccurring tropes and themes do you notice in the music and literature from the Great Depression? How are metaphors of nature, the environment, and weather used? How are Southern themes recast sectionally to express Western suffering? Overall, what do you notice about how Americans respond to the Great Depression culturally?

2) How does the portrayal of mass migration during the Dust Bowl differ from other migrations (both forced and elective) we’ve studied in the West? How is it similar?

3) What role does fantasy and futurism play in family formation, racial identity, inheritance, and land ownership in the 1920s vs. 1930s? How didowning land (or the dream of it) legitimize households, masculinities, or racial identities?

4) Thinking critically beyond the basic fact that the market economy is global, was the Great Depression and Dust Bowl a national crisis or an international crisis?

5) Was the Great Depression transformative for women and minorities in the U.S. West or did it further entrench stereotypes? Was the Great Depression a moment of heightened white supremacy and masculinity or was whiteness and masculinity in crisis?

4)  Literature overview questions for Whose Names are Unknown : What is the significance of the book’s title?  How does the representation of California change throughout your book’s arch? Consider language, character development, narrative structure, motifs, etc. Be prepared to discuss the book at length on Thursday.

5) Which voices are absent this week in the historiography and primary source literature?

Great Depression Music, Movies, & Multimedia 

“The Plow That Broke the Plains” (the first documentary made about the Dust Bowl in 1937)

Jimmie Rodgers – “Blue Yodel #1”

Jimmie Rodgers – “In The Jailhouse Now”

Carter Family – “Keep On the Sunny Side”

Woody Gutherie – “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”

Skip James – “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”

Gene Autry – “Tumbling Tumbleweeds”

Walt Disney’s first feature-length animation film Snow White was released at the height of the Great Depression (where lessons about mining, taking baths, and being happy laborers abound….)

Lena Horne – “Stormy Weather”

Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Wizard of Oz)

Vivien Leigh – Gone With the Wind– “Never Be Hungry Again” Speech

John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath

Ken Burns on the Dust Bowl Legacy on Irrigation & Witnessing the Dust Bowl

 Music from the Great Depression (unreleased folkway recording song list on the right) 

This American Life 5:00 Minutes -40 Minutes: Interviews with Great Depression Survivors 

 Documenting California’s Contemporary Drought in Historical Perspective (Opinion Pieces) 


Weekly Assignment 

  1. Select one image from Photogrammar that you feel highlights or personifies a part of Whose Names are Unknown. Analyze the image in relation to our book this week.


Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.