Required readings: 


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


Guided Reading 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 did owning 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?
  6. Literature overview questions for Whose Names are Unknown & Ask the Dust: 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 your book at length in your small group.
  7. Which voices are absent this week in the historiography and primary source literature?

Great Depression Music, Movies, & Multimedia 

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….)

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)

Writing Public History of the Great Depression: 3/31 Blog Guidelines

Throughout this course, we have engaged in different ways Americans documented their history and lived experiences in the American West. In your blog posts, you have also practiced different forms of argumentative writing and analysis. This week for your blog post, we are going to practice informative non-argumentative writing and contribute to the number one way Americans currently learn about the past: Wikipedia.


  1. Content Creation: Wikipedia page (e.g. you will be collaboratively creating and updating a Wikipedia page on John Steinbeck’s 1936 work The Harvest Gypsies).
    1. Document the page before you edit it, either by taking screenshots highlighting your contributions (this is the preferred method) or cutting and pasting the full text into a Word document and saving it.
    2. Produce at least 300-500 words of new and transformative content, with citations, following Wikipedia guidelines. You can edit a classmate’s work, or create a new subsection on a major theme you identify in the text. You can also do contextual research: why was this written? How was it received? How was it circulated? What genre is this? You will also have to think about taxonomies—where should this article be attributed on parent pages? John Steinbeck? The Great Depression? Etc.
    3. Adding images: You will also need to add images or hyperlinks that meet Wikipedia standards for multimedia. (Note: you can use material from WikiCommons or use photography from the WPA/ FSA from the 1930s found on Photogrammar  that are in the public domain to make this easier).
  2. Documenting:
    1. Document the page after you edit it, either by taking screenshots or cutting and pasting the full text into a Word document and saving it. Upload your edits (via screenshot or word document) to our class iSite.
  3. Assessment:
    1. Once you have finished your contributions, you will then request that Wikipedia’s editors Peer Review your edits in a process that typically takes two or more weeks here:
    2. In addition to the article being evaluated by the Wikipedia editorial team, members of both the History and Hist & Lit faculty will review it for accuracy and clarity.

Our goal collectively is to create an article that will be evaluated by the Wikipedia review board as a grade of “B” or better. You can read about the editorial team assessment here:

Some information to get started:



Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and an Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (now streaming PBS, 2019).