via USDA

The Dust Bowl was the worst environmental disaster in American history. Throughout the 1930s, severe dust storms ravaged the Great Plains states, claiming thousands of lives and causing over two million people to leave the region.

The devastating storms destroyed farm houses and crops, choked livestock and, at times, blocked out the sun.

Much like the climate crisis we face today, the Dust Bowl was man-made. In the early 1920s, farmers began using new mechanized farming techniques that ripped up the prairie's natural drought-resistant grasses and fertile topsoil.

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In 1904, a schoolteacher named Lewis W. Hine started photographing immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island.

Photography turns light into a palpable record of a moment in time, which is incredible when you think about it. And Hine knew just how powerful those moments could be.

An Albanian woman from Italy at Ellis Island in 1905 (left) and an Armenian man in 1926 who was fleeing persecution in Turkey (right). Photos by Lewis W. Hine/The New York Public Library.

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There is no better way to celebrate Black History Month than with historic photographs from an era long-gone ... and Beyoncé.

The photos are publicly available for the first time thanks to the recently digitized collection from the Farm Security Administration, which captured America on film from the mid-1930s to 1942. Along with other agencies' photos, the collection totals more than 170,000 pictures

The images below offer a rare glimpse into the lives of African-American workers and families. Many were employed as sharecroppers or tenant farmers, but landowners often kept these farmers in their debt, leaving many hardworking families poverty-stricken. Conditions worsened with the Great Depression, as African-American workers were hit especially hard. By 1932, nearly half were out of work. It was a bleak period in history, but it laid the groundwork for many of the labor movements and civil rights protests to come. 

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