For the Educator
Buried in dust, distraught and displaced, thousands from the prairies of the American Great Plains, especially from the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado headed west to California. John Steinbeck, before writing The Grapes of Wrath, had written a compelling account of that exodus and what the migrants encountered in California in a series of articles for the San Francisco News. The following is an excerpt from that series, later collected in book form titled The Harvest Gypsies:
At this season of the year, when California's great crops are coming into
harvest, the heavy grapes, the prunes, the apples and lettuce and the rapidly
maturing cotton, our highways swarm with the migrant workers, that shifting
group of nomadic, poverty-stricken harvesters driven by hunger and the threat
of hunger from crop to crop, from harvest to harvest, up and down the state
and into Oregon to some extent, and into Washington a little. But it is
California which has and needs the majority of these new gypsies…. There
are at least 150,000 homeless migrants wandering up and down the state...
To help students grasp the magnitude of this 1930s migration West, mainly into California, and other factors related to displacement of Americans during the 1930s, consider introducing the following points of study.