California and the Dust Bowl Migration

California and the Dust Bowl Migration

California and the Dust Bowl Migration

California and the Dust Bowl Migration

Synopsis

"Professor Stein....succeeds in clarifying the complex relationships of the Okies to California farming and politics, to the agricultural ideologies and policies of the New Deal, and to their own roots in the Jeffersonian past." American Historical Review

Excerpt

More than any other state in the union, California owes its prosperity and affluence to continuing streams of migrants. For a century, the state has viewed the entire United States as its eastern hinterland, from whence new arrivals bring fresh treasure and new blood. Only once has California lost its accustomed good temper with migrants and, in many ways, the anti-Okie hysteria of the depression years was paradoxical. Ironically, the phenomenon occurred during the decade in which migration was relatively smaller than at any other time in the state's history. The reaction of the 1930s was not directed at all migrants, but was focused upon the Okies, a group of newcomers from the South Central states (Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas) who settled in the less populous, agricultural areas of the state, and who were white, old-stock Protestants not unlike those who had entered during the 1920s. Finally, although the migrant problem would not have arisen during prosperous times, it was not simply a direct outgrowth of the depression. Indeed, California's Okie crisis did not occur until 1938, a full three years after the migrant influx reached its peak. This study seeks to explain the brief period when California rejected migrant admirers such as those she had welcomed in the past.

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