Collection Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941

Articles and Essays

  • Charles Lafayette "Lafe" Todd

    Charles Lafayette "Lafe" Todd was born in rural western New York State on December 9, 1911. As an undergraduate studying English literature at Hamilton College, he developed an interest in the Elizabethan ballad. In the late 1930s, while doing graduate work at Columbia University in New York City, Todd lived in Greenwich Village, where he frequented the Village Vanguard, a local night spot. Here ...

  • Robert Sonkin

    Robert Sonkin was born into an orthodox Jewish family in The Bronx, New York, in 1911. Sonkin, who held degrees from both City College (now the City College of the City University of New York) and Columbia University, founded the speech clinic at City College. He met Charles L. Todd while they were both working in the Department of Public Speaking at City College ...

  • The Migrant Experience

    A complex set of interacting forces both economic and ecological brought the migrant workers documented in this ethnographic collection to California. Following World War I, a recession led to a drop in the market price of farm crops and caused Great Plains farmers to increase their productivity through mechanization and the cultivation of more land. This increase in farming activity required an increase in ...

  • The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Collecting Expedition

    The ethnographic collection created by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin provides a glimpse of the everyday life and cultural expression of people living through a particularly difficult period of American history, the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. The motivation for the Todd/Sonkin expedition to document life in the FSA migrant camps of California arose from a combination of circumstances. Charles L. Todd ...