For thousands of years the Great Plains were predominantly grasslands. But with the advent of modern agricultural methods the land was plowed, setting the stage for an ecological disaster that in the 1930s turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that to many seemed like the end of the world.
Acclaimed documentay maker Ken Burns' four-hour Surviving The Dust Bowl debuts on November 18 and 19 on PBS stations. But Kansas Citians can get an advance look at the film on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801
Screenwriter Dayton Duncan will introduce excerpts from the documentary, then join Kansas Geological Survey interim director Rex Buchanan and KU assistant professor of history Sara Gregg in a panel discussion moderated by KCPT's Randy Mason.
The Dust Bowl was born of economics as farmers plowed and planted every available acre. But with the Great Depression many farmers lost or abandoned their land, which was left exposed and vulnerable to the drought of 1932. Winds began picking up dust from the open fields, creating dust storms of biblical proportions. Children developed life-threatening "dust pneumonia," businesses collapsed, and thousands of Americans lost their land and were forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States had ever seen.
In fact, the Dust Bowl was the worst manmade ecological disaster in American history.
Surviving the Dust Bowl chronicles this critical moment in all its complexities and human drama. It is part oral history, and filled with seldom-seen film footage, previously unpublished photographs, and the songs of Woody Guthrie, who would be 100 years old this year.
Dayton Duncan is the author of 10 books, including Out West: A Journey Through Lewis & Clark's America and The National Parks: America's Best Idea. He was a consultant on three PBS series The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz, and in 1996 was co-writer and consulting producer for a 12-hour series on the history of the American West.
This event is co-sponsored by KCPT and the University of Kansas Libraries.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.