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Ken Burns’ “The Dust Bowl” Airs Nov. 18-19 at 7 p.m.

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"The Dust Bowl" a Ken Burns Documentary 

If you’ve enjoyed Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” “The National Parks,” “The Tenth Inning,” or “Prohibition,” be sure to tune in to AETN on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 18-19. “The Dust Bowl: The Great Plow Up” premieres Sunday at 7 p.m., preceded by “NOVA: Inside the Megastorm” at 6 p.m. and followed by “A Conversation With Ken Burns” at 11 p.m. “The Dust Bowl: Reaping the Whirlwind” airs Monday at 7 p.m.

Exploring the greatest manmade ecological disaster in American History, “The Dust Bowl” chronicles the catastrophe that destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms in the 1930s.

On Sunday, the documentary begins following the tale of the early 20th century farming boom that transformed the grassland of the southern plains into wheat fields. But, after years of increasingly better harvests, a drought in 1931 changed everything. As the winds began picking up soil from the open fields, dust storms of biblical proportions formed. Each year, for nearly a decade, the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, spreading the dust and despair across the country.

The second half of the film, airing Monday night, further details the disaster itself, as well as the mass exodus it created. It also highlights survivors’ heroic perseverance and the ingenuity of government agencies and farmers who worked together to develop new faming and conservation methods.  

What may be most striking about the film, however, are the compelling interviews Burns for which Burns is so well known. “The Dust Bowl” preserves the stories of 26 survivors of those hard times in what may likely be the last recorded testimony of the generation of survivors. Filled with seldom-seen movie footage, previously unpublished photos, the songs of Woody Guthrie and two remarkable women’s extraordinary written accounts, “The Dust Bowl” provides an immersive historical account of the 1930s on the southern plains.

Want to learn more about the Dust Bowl itself or the filmmakers? The documentary’s website features even more video clips, background info on the film and filmmakers, and the chance to share your own stories.

Also, if you or an educator you know would like to create lessons discussing the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, be sure to check out the site’s “For Educators” section.  With lesson plans and a wealth of materials, the site provides a terrific guide for using “The Dust Bowl” as a historical lens to explore changes affection the environment today.


“American Masters – Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home,” Nov. 18, 1:30 p.m.
“NOVA: Inside the Megastorm” (Exploring Hurricane Sandy), Nov. 18, 6 p.m.
“The Dust Bowl: The Great Plow Up,” Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
“A Conversation With Ken Burns,” Nov. 18, 11 p.m.
“The Dust Bowl: Reaping the Whirlwind,” Nov. 19, 7 p.m.