Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941

Bibliographic information: Library of Congress: Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941. www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/connections/dust-bowl/

Brief description: This website has links to many different resources, in multiple formats, such as photographs and interviews with migrant workers in California during the Great Depression. Two journalists visited migrant agricultural work communities and attempted to record the conditions and experiences of the workers. The stories shared by the workers are includes as audio recordings made during interviews and transcripts of the conversations, as well as photographs. There are also musical recordings. The site has a search function, which allows you to see which standards align with the resource. It is a quality source because it is a primary source with first hand accounts of life as a migrant field worker, told by the workers themselves. It is compiled with other resources on the topic by the Library of Congress, which is a respected institution.

Qualitative Analysis: A background of historical knowledge on the Great Depression, migrant workers, labor conditions and tensions in the early 1900’s would all be a useful base for better understanding the photographs, narratives, songs and factors at play in the migrant workers situation. Language is mainly explicit and easy to understand. However, references are made to cultural elements of the time, place and people. Several themes are portrayed. Experiences will likely be unfamiliar to students, though some may be immigrants and able to connect to the experience of coming to the US, though not necessarily life as a worker in the fields. Vocabulary is conversational and familiar and sentences are mostly simple and compound in the oral accounts recorded in this collection. Photographs enhance the audio recordings, but are not necessary for understanding. Just as the audio recordings enhance the photographs, but are not integral to appreciating the photographs. Pictures also include captions to aid in comprehension.

Subject area: History, Social Studies

Personal thoughts: This website is interesting because it has primary sources and you can hear the stories of the immigrants in their own words and have a first hand account of what life was like at that time. I think it would be interesting to compare the life of migrant workers during the Great Depression and now. Sadly I don’t think a whole lot has changed in the decades since these accounts were recorded.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, great depression, dust bowl, migrant farm workers

Series information: Voices of the Dust Bowl

Character names/descriptions: Jose Flores and Augustus Martinez, two farm workers who share their story in audio recordings. Photographs and music from unnamed workers.

High interest annotation: Hear music performed in work camps, by migrant workers during the Great Depression, as well as seeing photographs and hearing first person accounts of life working in the fields.


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