Dorothea Lange, hired as a photographer for the Resettlement Administration (later called the Farm Security Administration), documented the plight of migrant workers in California. Her images were intended to promote New Deal relief programs and became emblematic of the Great Depression.
A major earthquake—later estimated to be between 7.7 and 7.9 on the Richter scale—struck San Francisco at 5:12 a.m. The devastation grew as broken gas lines caused widespread fires and much of the city was destroyed. As many as 3,000 people were killed, and more than half of the survivors found themselves homeless.
John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath was published. The book told the story of an Oklahoma sharecropper family forced to migrate to California in search of work. The book instantly became a literary emblem of the Great Depression and soon earned the Pulitzer Prize and was instrumental in his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans from California and the Southwest were “repatriated” to Mexico between 1929 and 1939. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican descent were forced to leave the US without due process.
The House Un-American Activities Committee began an investigation of Communism in the American film industry, demanding to know, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” A group of screenwriters, directors, and producers known as the “Hollywood Ten” refused to answer the committee’s questions concerning their political beliefs. They were sentenced to prison terms of up to a year for contempt and many were blacklisted from the film industry for decades.