Watch Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl

Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl is a 2012 two-part documentary series that chronicles the environmentally disastrous dust bowl that took place in the 1930s, and affected the Great Plain region. The documentary was directed by Ken Burns and narrated by Peter Coyote, Patricia Clarkson and Carolyn McCormick.

The Dust Bowl was a phenomenon that lasted anywhere between six and ten years depending on your geographical location. Through a witness testimony, pictures and archival footage, Ken Burns captures the devatating toll the dust storms had on the land, the people, and the long term effects that are evident even today. The dust storms were brought on by a number of issues: severe drought, cover crops, inferior farming methods, fallow fields, and methods used for wind erosion. In the early 1930s, drought and the absense of natural anchors, dried the soil and turned it to dust. That along with deep plowing methods, contributed to the soil being lifted by the winds and taken thousands of miles up into the atmosphere.

Beginning in 1933, a series of powerful dust storm, known as black blizzards, pounded areas of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. The events lasted for hours and sometimes days. On occasion, dust traveled as far as the East Coast. The dust storms took a terrible toll on people in the region. Many people were left homeless, and were forced to leave their farms and head West in search of work. The dust bowl also affected the health of thousands of people. Men, women, and children developed respitory diseases due to ingesting the dust. The dust was particularly brutal on children and a great many died from dust pneumonia. Under the Roosevelt Administration, the Soil Conservation Service was developed to restore the land's ecological balance. The long term effects included the devaluing of land value, population dropoff, and severe bank failures.

The Dust Bowl Film Project
1 Season, 4 Episodes
November 18, 2012
Documentary & Biography
8.2/10
Cast: Dorothy Williamson, Donald Worster, Timothy Egan, Calvin Crabill
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Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl Full Episode Guide

  • In the first episode of Ken Burns's THE DUST BOWL, feel the full force of the worst manmade environmental disaster in America's history as survivors recall the terror of the dust storms, the desperation of hungry families and how they managed to find hope even as the earth and heavens seemed to turn against them.

  • Additional material and backgrounder featurette from "Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl"

  • Additional material and Backgrounder from "Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl"

Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl Video Clips & Extras

Lessons from the Dust Bowl w/ Ken Burns (Live YouTube Event) Clip (01:45) Join Ken Burns for a live YouTube Discussion About the Dust Bowl Nov. 15th at 2pm ET Clip (00:54) The Dust Bowl Episode | Eyewitnesses | PBS Clip (06:46) The Dust Bowl | Woody Guthrie: Okies | PBS Clip (02:20) The Dust Bowl | Lessons | PBS Clip (04:54) The Dust Bowl | You Gave Us Beer, Now Give Us Water Clip (01:08) The Dust Bowl Episode | Uncovering the Dust Bowl | PBS Clip (05:56) THE DUST BOWL: A Film By Ken Burns | Premieres Sun., Nov. 18th | The Critics React | PBS Clip (00:31)

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Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl is currently available to watch and stream on The Dust Bowl Film Project. You can also buy, rent Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes online.