In the 1930's, farmers' extensive deep plowing of top soil in the great plains region displaced the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place. That, in combination with a mix of drought and high winds led to dust storms creating a decade-long period known as the dust bowl that affected thousands of people. What was once a paradise for those moving west to farm the land became a desert-like environment and was later deserted by many settlers.
One of the most frightening days during the decade of the Dust Bowl is referred to as Black Sunday. On April 14, 1935, what started out as a clear sunny day suddenly transformed into a giant black cloud on the horizon — a huge dust storm. Residents fled their morning chores and sought cover in cars, houses, and shelters before they would be blinded and enveloped in the thick, black dirt cloud. Conditions of the storm were most serious in the Oklahoma and Texas pan handles
Some blamed the farmers for bringing the Dust Bowl upon themselves by using new plowing technology that destroyed the grassy plains native to the Midwest. Without the top layer of grass with roots going into the soil, there was nothing to keep the dirt from simply blowing away. This practice was unfortunately timed with a period of drought that evaporated the moisture from the ground that would have been the soil's last defense against the gushing Midwestern winds.
The Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence has two exhibits exploring art from and the Dust Bowl called: '1 Kansas Farmer' and 'Dust.' The U.S. Government hired photographers to go out and document the lives of the settlers in the Dust Bowl region: their hardships, their suffering, and their livelihoods.
The Dust Bowl affected thousands of residents. The dust storms and drought destroyed their crops, thus rendering them without food and without a way to provide for themselves. Their struggles are depicted in the Spencer Museum of Art's exhibit, and in the slideshow above.
- Kate Meyer, Assistant Curator at Spencer Museum of Art