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tv   John Steinbeck the American West  CSPAN  August 29, 2021 3:27pm-4:09pm EDT

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go to cspanshop.org. >> and early 1938 will print across john steinbeck explain i'm trying to write history while it is happening and i don't want to be wrong. except in that nobel prize in literature in 1962, he reflected on the ancient
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commission of the writer to expose failures and how it dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement. he thought about these words in recent years as my attention has turned to steinbeck's writing as a window onto the western nation in the middle third of the 20th century for the error from the new deal for the great society second american age of progressive reform. i entered my own scholarly work as it has been by my admiration for much of activism 1930s and 19. i am confident few people think of me has a magnificent scholar the last three decades writing about the west and american thought moderate prescriptive hardly manifesto expectations western pass can help navigate the difficulties and complexities of the present. mine has been history is your approach acknowledging our field is not science but
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conform policy by illuminating actions, processes and consequences. times is expunging maybes for my work is situated in the realm of moderation that solution. currently successful. now i am words and works better in his lifetime should matter now about the west and america that half-century since his death. those words matter and faultlines the divider nation in ways we've not seen since the 1960s. sensibility of the scholars of the west have help me appreciate steinbeck's positive and purposeful contributions to the regional and national past as well as acknowledge his failings and
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comes as a guide given my infamous inexpressible passion for writing i might have chosen to use steinbeck's writing as a lens to illuminate the twists and turns in our field from the frontier thesis to global frameworks and colonialism. instead i will highlight aspects of steinbeck's life and work mostly from 1935 -- 1940 we flew showing the warriors to both in relation to the 2020 conference theme of migration meeting ground memory in the ancient commission of the writer that he talked about both then and now. in the mid to late 30s steinbeck wrote a series of cale warriors who worked as a government propagandist and a workhorse correspondent overseas. he pervaded the cultural landscape from the start of the second new deal to the end of world war ii showing those ten years he published 11 books and seven films based on
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his writings were released. he was as well-known and widely read is in the american writer since mark twain yet steinbeck was hardly revered or appreciated by the arbiters of the literary. during his lifetime critic dismissed his work is overly sentimental and not stylistically intimated. his literary reputation developed a parallel just popular acclaim. americans read a steinbeck because he articulated the daily striving more effectively and authentically than any writer of his generation. i'm drawn to his advocacy for families and the depression years who journeyed for my adoptive state of oklahoma and the rest of the southern plains to california. i appreciate the understanding for struggles or food, shelter, health, dignity of those who labor with their hands. perhaps my own back story explains my affinity. i grew up in working-class government housing in london. there is a single small
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bookcase with a paperback edition of mice and men was among its contents. that little book spoke to me with the directness thomas dickinson thomas hardy could not match steinbeck's advocate was him cursive nonetheless it was heartfelt and genuine and on and balance it served as a force for good and still can. as a transplant from another country who sought to find home in various places across america for 35 years, i am drawn to steinbeck as a regionalists who understand the power of attachment to place his value of having the ugly truth of how the most recently read californians sometimes develop their own sense of belonging by dehumanizing even newer arrivals a process of regionalism through reaction that remains alive and well across the west in america. i appreciate steinbeck is a chronicle of place his celebrated the decency and humanity of those on the
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fringes of society the countercultural type c workers, the developmentally challenge i relish the irony has malcolm described canterbury road. helped create tourist attraction from the rest of shells of tanning factories. i suggest what be known as steinbeck that from sand was in the north down through monterey county and bounded to the east by the mountains and even stretching further south and east can be re- envisioned as a metaphor for remembering progressive ideas and values in the present. published in january of 1936, steinbeck's and dubious battle was the earliest example of his determination to write history while it was happening. he began crafting the number september of 1934, shortly after san francisco's bilotti thursday. he described the book as a brutal, merely a recording of
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consciousness judging and nothing simply putting down a thing. the story about strike organizing is almost highly devoid of heroes steinbeck focused just on the consciousness of the workers and the mistreatment my california agribusiness and the local vigilantes the interest mobilized. he adjusted brutality of a communist ideology that justified doom to failure from the start. to the longshoremen's and field worker strikes in california, the contemporary context of western american labor struggles pervades in dubious battle. but migration did not. three quarters of the workers in the strikes describe mexican but none of steinbeck's characters were. we cannot learn about the
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efforts of the filipino labor union in 1934, affiliated by a single week the precise moment when steinbeck's hometown began working on the book affiliated with a white salina vegetable packers association. the mob violence directed in september and the positive resolution of the strike they managed to achieve later that month receive no mention in the novel. nonetheless, in dubious battle was successful in the wake of its success the san francisco news invited steinbeck to write a series of articles on the oklahoma families, migrant families who were in california. at this moment his lifework took a turn. his literary talents became more directly to a context corps. steinbeck met with federal resettlement administration officials who wanted him to promote the government fledgling system of signature camps in the state.
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steinbeck toured the camps in this san joaquin valley and it shocked him out of his neutral observer. as a study of final courses the analysis of ultimate purpose or design is an explanation of human behavior. emphasize cause and effect relationships that lead to clear resolutions. steinbeck by contrast was trying to chart solely what is rather than passing judgment on what should be, could be, or might be. judging nothing and will originally titled simply and non- descriptively something that happened. but now steinbeck was moved to anger, and passion advocacy and judgment would servicing the seven articles for the
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news. the articles appealed in early october 1936 accompanied by langs photograph including one of florence owen thompson from the famous migrant mother series. steinbeck stressed the loss of dignity among migrant families as they became destitute and sick as a result of the labor and conditions. placing particular emphasis on humane lack of public health services described the suffering of one oklahoma couple whose six jeweled dollar daughter was partially blind and the boy died of a burst appendix day after the county hospital failed to provide treatment. he talked about stillborn babies, infant deaths because not malnourished mothers were unable to breast-feed. mortality in the san joaquin valley is to have time the national average. he emphasized young children with swollen bellies dying from disease and nutrition related illnesses. steinbeck also highlight the
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suffering mother's anguish and despair and the loss of dignity and spirit that he said cut fathers down to a sub humanity. the account is still painful to read and it should be. steinbeck called out the large agricultural banking and the state including the associated farmers of california as the forces behind the acts of a vigilante and terrorism the beatings, tara and feather in, shootings and employing its migrant labor. he blamed the large farming interest for imposing starving wages and exploiting families with inadequate and overpriced tempera housing and stores. because of their actions he declared california democracy is rapidly dwindling away and methods are more numerous and powerfully applied more openly practice in california than any other place in the united states. steinbeck blamed organized private interests working hand-in-hand with state and county governments for the
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migrant families horrendous conditions. he highlighted the restoration of dignity through the resettlement first to demonstration camps. he advocated for an expansion of the camp system. he offered a roadmap for migrant independence and family security through small parts of land and educational access. he insisted would not be much greater than the amount that is spent to teargas, machine guns, ammunition and deputy sheriffs. however matters of race steinbeck's descriptions and prescriptions were less satisfying. he fully recognize the field labor in california have been performed previously by chinese, filipinos, mexicans and japanese. he emphasized the oppression and segregation they suffered. he reminded readers the success of the chinese and then the japanese as agricultural producers and made them targets of violence and deportation. mexican labor efforts to
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organize had been met with he said vigilante, terrorism, savagery unbelievable and uncivilized state. steinbeck clearly understood and disavowed the racism and xenophobia that were the bedrock of california agriculture. however, steinbeck also contrasted foreign migrant in the decibel refugees. the racial binders that accompanied his myopia. these newest migrants he said filthy pride of land ownership and have the terrible pain sing their lands wither and die. they made the crossing hunt of often seen the death of their children along the way. they where he declared the defendants of pioneers and were not migrants by nature. he insisted with this new race the old methods of repression, starvation wages jailing, beating and simulation are not going to work because these are american people. for all of his impassioned
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chronicling inhumane workers of color the good white american pioneering of english german scandinavian descent somehow suffered more for had more to lose because of the close attachment to the land more likely or less likely to accept being treated as peons the nonwhite foreign labor was inaccurate and racist. nonetheless steinbeck was entirely accurate in predicting it will be harder for california agribusiness to subject a white dustbowl refugees to such inhumane conditions and get away with it. the majority of the white american population and its white political representatives would take notice and visit the white on white oppression is un-american. steinbeck's own efforts and those employed or encouraged by the federal government including lying cap the white migrants in the public eye. of course thompson, unforgettable face of a white
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american poverty strength and determination in a lang's photograph was actually cherokee woman. that would be not known for most people it's more than four decades later. fall of 1936 to late winter 1938 steinbeck learn more about the conditions southern plains migrant families face. his died with tom : the manager of the sanitary encampment at bakersfield. collins a detailed report on migrant culture and form steinbeck's understanding of california's newest refugees. steinbeck traveled to squatter camps and employer owned farm camps with collins and others including life photographer horse bristol helped him appreciate the migrant's daily struggles for work, food, health, and safety. during 18 months of research on immersion and, assistance to, and advocacy for southern planes families, steinbeck the
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new deal democrat became an author. in february steinbeck said to a friend there's 5000 family starving to death in the interior valley. not just hungry but actually starving. he asked when the government was trying to provide food and medical assistance. but it's efforts are being sabotaged by the utilities, banks, huge growers they described as fascist and murderers. he made the trip in late february early march. his experience there helping the migrants prove it's a pivotal moment in its awakening leading him to declare i want to put a tag of shame on the greedy pastors who are responsible for this. this anger and frustration colored his article, starvation under the orange trees which he concluded with a damning rhetorical question, if you buy a farm horse and only feed him when you work him, the horse will die. is it possible the state is so
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>>, so vicious and so greedy that cannot feed and clothe the men and women who helped to make it the richest area in the world? at the end of may of 1938 steinbeck became the 100 days of writing over five months. he kept a daily journey filled with an excessive urgency, uncertainty and occasional hope is creating a literary work to match the significance of a contemporary private crisis he was chronicling. the challenge was convey the full horrors of the migrants plight while emphasizing the strength, dignity and humanity in the face of desolate poverty and misery breaking to achieve this while illuminating experience through a non- lens telling what is nonjudgmentally. this is reflected again and again in the novel jim casey the former preacher who no longer preaches but right up until the moment he slain and gently implores people to act decently toward each other. and tom joad a parolee who
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killed for the second time was casey reincarnate becomes a living embodiment of best impulses to the brutalized, hungry and downtrodden. his life to a dying stranger after she delivers a stillborn baby. ending steinbeck's deadly entrance side entrance steinbeck refused to change giving of the breast is no more than giving of a piece of bread. however steinbeck's method did not make him a neutral observer of the events in california. has unequivocal support for labor it was evident in his letters and john berry san francisco news column that july. barry had asked steinbeck if he would participate on a non- partisan form of labor and business representatives to the purpose of ending recent strikes. steinbeck wrote i'm afraid of that word nonpartisan. he insisted he was completely
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partisan. explaining every effort i can bring to bear is and has been at the core of the common working people to the end they may eat what they raise, we've where would they leave you with the produce. as published in april 1939 steinbeck dedicated to his wife karol who wilt this book. she also critiqued, edited, title and typed it. he also dedicated to tom collins who lived it. steinbeck charted the families displacement, exodus to california and evolving group consciousness which is the move for my i to we. this ethics saga survive immediately became a bestseller, refocus the nation's attention on the migrants suffering that accentuate the depth of the dream of the far west as a promised land. continuing the theme of man's inhumanity to man, steinbeck captured the contours of racism expressed at home and experience in trying to find home in the meeting grounds of
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california. he emphasized how their sense of place was formed in part to their experience of conquest and sediment writing grandpa took up the land and he had to kill the indians and dried them away. but when the joad's driven away themselves by the banks and tractors reached california they become the new targets as evidence in a casual comment of one attendant to another, has gone down have no sense or feelings they are human human being would not live like them human being could not stand to be so dirty and miserable under miserable they are better than guerrillas. steinbeck's pendant but not steinbeck's voice as he highlighted the active regionalism. steinbeck's depiction of the conditions in oklahoma and california led to a backlash from conservative politicians and business interest. oklahoma critics emphasize the vulgarity, reverent treatment of religion line icing of those who fled rather than those who remained in his
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depiction of the state as a baron, probably written wasteland all the time when leaders are trying to attract business investment. congressman lyle born famously to clear the book a lie, a black infernal creation of a twisted distorted mind. california critics projected the depiction of migrant families and working the agribusiness interests and positive treatment of federal efforts to assist them to the camp system. steinbeck vilified as a liar, a communist and she was deeply troubled by the backlash. especially by the lies he assisted farmers spread and newspapers they rejected the depiction of them, hated him and wanted to kill him. newspapers in california publish contrite test testimonials rejecting the novel and emphasizing the good treatment by california growers. california businesses coordinate campaign against the novel amounted to life in
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the pitting life as he sought to discredit a literary representation of their own repressive action. steinbeck had predicted as much when he insisted all of the verses in the music to battle him other publicly printed inside the cover of the novel explaining the fascist crowd will try to sabotage this book because it is revolutionary. adding the battle hymn is american and intensely so will help undermine their efforts to applying the communist label to the book. literary scholar krystal bowman recently gathered evidence from the newspapers published by the resident of the farm security administration cams demonstrate deep appreciation for steinbeck's efforts. those resources demonstrate the novel was a widely read even in the often sanitary camp despite the ban on the book. long waiting list grew to borrow grapes of wrath from libraries is discussed in
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camper reading groups read it entirely to its groups of residents. the response was overwhelmingly positive reflected an appreciation for the author who would come to know them and understand the struggles they face. pressure from migrants in the farm security camps actually help determine where in the central valley john ford's darrell's movie was shown. including early screenings and march 1940. the editor was one of the camp and newspapers refer to the camp residence has wheatley joad to demonstrate in the affinity they felt with steinbeck's portrayal. what played out in the wake of the book's publication and movies release constituted one of those pivotal moments in the nation's history when a literary work strikes a core that encapsulates the faultlines of the time so thoroughly and thoughtfully makes history while
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chronicling it. the grapes of wrath was aimed at the conscience of the whites middle-class american reading public at a time when the audience was growing bored of the struggles of the poor. a weight of evidence fill them the side of steinbeck's truth. williams a searing indictment california agribusiness in the field was published in june 1939. it reinforced the reality that field workers and their families are being oppressed, abused and starved by the associated farmers who, like steinbeck was described as fascist. however williams had full coverage of the exploitation of chinese, japanese, filipino and mexican labor. structuring narrative around the long history of exploitation by california agribusiness. williams did not address the dustbowl migration till the end of the book. steinbeck and the harvested gypsy articles but longer racially diverse history was a
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prelude to the white migrant story. further validating steinbeck's accounting of the oppression of a white migrant families, bristol photograph taken during his travels with steinbeck in the winter of 1937 -- 38 appeared along the april 1939 issue of fortune magazine and in a life magazine in june. images were used in the casting and costuming of the grapes of wrath the movie which also drew heavily on tom collins expertise. further augmenting the weight of positive and opinion behind steinbeck's article a second article appeared in 1940 featuring bristol and the movies characters side-by-side with a telling title, speaking of pictures these by life approve facts in grapes of wrath. the movie was released to great critical acclaim and through large audience. grapes of wrath evening,
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benefit concert new york city theater in early march 40 featured pete seeger, hotmail and jackson woody guthrie. meanwhile steinbeck's novel directed a national political attention on the migrant misfortune from plate 39 to early 1940 robert will follow senate vesicle oratory committee held hearings on the conditions in california. fdr expressed his appreciation for steinbeck's treatment of the migrant struggle in a radio address in january. eleanor roosevelt affirmed the novel's accuracy when she toured california in april. steinbeck received the pulitzer prize for the novel in may. and when he got for us dustbowl ballads albums in july had a seven minute two-part musical synopsis of the movie belted tom joad. these contributed to the growing consensus the southern plains migrant families needed and deserved sympathy and assistance. lang captured the sediment
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brilliantly and ironically to pen a photograph of a large billboard in the san joaquin valley for the movie playing in modesto with a billboard itself serving as a physical when rake for a camp located right behind it. but the grapes of wrath served successful congress in the early 40s failed to pass the committee's bill to counter oppressive labor practices. california group business crushed affiliated united cannery agricultural packing and allied workers of america which included many formally independent mexican and filipino unions. the large enterprise of securing humane conditions and decent wages for the stakes agricultural workers remains ongoing. the fortunes of the southern plains migrant improved because of government subsidies for the defense industry that had hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the
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40s systematic racism remained firmly in place during the war years as they enjoyed a far greater access to those employment opportunities than workers of color. steinbeck's advocacy was incomplete. the grapes of wrath champion the positive role of progressive government and helping the oppressed while contemporaneous chronicles about the self failed to do so. this is because that mythic power of the west as a promised land even went inverted to show the death of the western california dream. it's also because of the novel's racial populism celebrated white protestant planes people. the human foundation of western mythology. steinbeck did not explode he encapsulated the new deal principle of enlightened government's role as a necessary safety net to replace the safety valve of the frontier. but steinbeck's novel had the
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same white heroes as turner's thesis. steinbeck's oklahoma narrative was marked by obvious geographical, environmental and democratic inaccuracies steinbeck placed eastern oklahoma sequoia county at the center of the dustbowl which affected primarily just the far western panhandle counties of the state. he presented mechanization, contractors are people the behest of corporations as the other principal factor behind the displacement of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. the sequoia county experience very limited mechanization in the 30s and had no corporate farms. in a graphic picture of mass migration in the grapes of wrath was a memorably encapsulated not just by the departing family but also by the few fragile souls left behind in a barren, abandoned landscape, the old graveyard ghost, however the county's population increased 19%
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during the decade. another factor in the tension between a literary license and the writing of history while it is happening considers the racial landscape of eastern oklahoma. historian james swanson reminds us photographer russell lee inspired by the grapes of wrath which he used as a shooting script traveled to oklahoma the home of the fictional joad's to steinbeck's fiction by pursuing an photograph in the real joad's, russell copes with the richness of oklahoma far more comprehensively than steinbeck. 1939 photograph of the economic distress native american and african-american residents of sequoia and nearby counties each group constituting a proximally 10% of sequoia county's population as well as the poor white residents presented a more accurate and diverse picture than steinbeck.
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world war ii ended the white migrant crisis. but a larger problem of mistreatment agricultural workers. served as a noteworthy to steinbeck's racial attitudes during this period in early december 1941 wake of pearl harbor and the declaration of war against japan and germany steinbeck sent a memo to fdr recommending a precise course of government action towards a japanese origin people on the west coast involving the use of a loyalty test. he contended the vast majority were unquestionably loyal to the united states would help identify those who were not. and anyone who is not oil would refuse to take the test and could be interned or deported. the plan was far from perfect the admission of a loyalty test exclusively to any particular racial group or national group was and remains thoroughly undemocratic. nonetheless steinbeck became the first american writer of note to oppose relocation and internment and tried to lead
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the president found a better path before the policies put in motion. from april -- july the salinas rodeo grounds were used to confine nearly 4004 they were relocated to permanent camps. soon after the united states entered the war, steinbeck ended the service of the government. however even in that role he paid a price for social advocacy and endurance of the agent commission of the writer. the war office investigate him for rationalism, his friends, acquaintances and neighbors about his actions and associations in the 30s, steinbeck served his country as a war propagandist. in 1942 had charted resistance to the nazi invasion in scandinavia. the work was distributed by resistant movements and translate into the language of virtually every european country. steinbeck received an award from the king of north for bolstering the morale of the
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citizenry and warner bros. played a staggering $3000 for the movie rights. at fdr's urging steinbeck traveled to air force bases around the united states to observe the training of pilots, navigators, puppeteers and gunners he wrote bombs away. meanwhile steinbeck passed his army physical but his request to officer rank and air force intelligence was denied made it difficult for him to secure the necessary passport papers from the wharton state departments for his travels as a correspondent. on june 3 covid 1943 steinbeck departed on a troop shift for england in the employ of the new york herald tribune. worktime dispatches 85 in total from england, north africa and sicily appeared in the herald tribune between june and december 1943 and was syndicated in newspapers all across the country except for oklahoma as well as in australia, new zealand, and south america.
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we have no other writers so likely to catch on paper the inner things people do not know about war. steinbeck been on the front lines for the invasion of italy pretty returned to new york in october 1933 with a burst eardrums, partial amnesia and ptsd. upon his return steinbeck in writing canterbury row. later recalled a group of soldiers had asked him to write something funny that is it about the war, we are sick of war. based on the life of his close friend the marine biologist who influences non- way of thinking canterbury road was a celebration of nonconformity. steinbeck's treatment of an enduring collection of characters living on the edges of monterey society might even be considered the first novel of the american counterculture. in the work he refused two and the boys a self defined a social outcast of the virtuous the beatitudes, the beauties there nonconformity is matched which is hairless, plotless
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marked by the infinity possibility by unrelated, irrelevant details sometimes running and one direction and leading to unfortunate consequences. but is so unintended to throw into question any sense of causality, order or purpose. steinbeck throws the reader into the world of canterbury road is a full participant and establishes a morality and human decency among the chaos. like the central valley and the grapes of wrath the monetary of canterbury row is an incomplete portrait a diverse marketplace county chains rightly cautions us steinbeck pays little attention to a huge segment of the population immigrants who labored in the fish ponds and plied the local waters and the relationships they forge. similarly laurie florez reminds us the ways in which salinas in california about their wealth on the backs of farmworkers from the 20th
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century particularly latino ones are often glassed over in historical narratives of places like steinbeck country. but steinbeck intern would not have recognized the idealized we envisioning of his regional landscape. while he failed to capture the full cultural richness and racial diversity of his california settings, canterbury row is far more realistic than romantic in portraying monterey. hardly the kind of book the tourist bureau would have welcomed but over time the place he depicted became a major tourist destination and counterintuitively so in part because of the compel it albeit incomplete picture of life at its ragged fringes. steinbeck spent most of the 1940s and 50s in new york when he decides to travel across the country in 1960 with his dog charlie. during that famous trippy visited the monterey peninsula was shocked by the nearly unrecognizable place he unwittingly helped create. they fish for tour snout not filters that species are not
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likely to wipe out. steinbeck reflected sampley on his visit to monterey. my old friends he said one to be gone so i can take my proper place in the captain of her members. and i wanted to go for the same reason, tom wolfe was right steinbeck concluded you cannot go home again because home ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory. still the mothballs of memory have their value steinbeck is worth remembering in her own time. the depression years are right turns on the struggles between liberals and conservatives over the role of the federal government that still dominate american politics for the government stepped in to help the nation's poor, hungry, sick on a scale never previously undertaken and spent more per capita in the west than any other region. the new deal programs were inspired, supported, and promoted by artists, musicians, actors and writers such as steinbeck who believes he had a moral responsibility to use his pen in the service of humanity.
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that purposeful alignment between progressive omissions and responsibility in the ancient commission worth emulating. in her own age moms by the displacement of millions of people globally went migrants and refugees are feared, dehumanize and demonize by some national, state, local leaders rather than welcome, supported and appreciated it would not hurt to recall the plight of those displaced migrants in the southern plains were the subjects of steinbeck's pen and a langs and bristol's cameras. we should not forget they were un- represented fragment but a larger more diverse and continuing story of oppression and dehumanization of migratory agricultural workers in the garden of the world and across the west that demands our attention and advocacy today. from 1935 -- 1945 john steinbeck struggled mightily to expose her grievous thoughts and failures while
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more progressive than most of the contemporary matters of race has emphasis on the white southern plane migrants obscured the struggles of workers and families of color. nonetheless he found meaning, purpose and value in the hard lived existence of working people in doing so demonstrated they were in fact extraordinary and instructive. the moving accounts of poverty and sickness and all american letters. he insisted the government have a responsibility to attest assist its most honorable citizens. and how it's been the human suffering whose shame those in power who facilitated, exacerbated and profited from the crisis. he firmly believed enlightened government had a place in
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america it is a hope that warrants a serious restoration. those are the features of steinbeck country and steinbeck reacted this writer that we should remember. in one of the most memorable passages and modern america literature and film, it's john >> declared wherever there is a site so people could eat i will be there. half a lifetime later in the opening lines america and americans, steinbeck wrote people of every kind also of every race on a land of one nation and our people are americans. to reach that point and finger advocates for racial diversity matches advocacy for the working poor. his fiction and nonfiction works seems a large part
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through diversity in the national preoccupation with the middle-class has long thrown a veil over the suffering of the poor. you do well to remember both as wellr program guide or at c-span.org/history. let's look at it in stanton, virginia in the front your cultured museum tells the story of early american migrants from europe. we visit original houses from england, ireland, germany relocated to the museum and hear historical interpreters describe daily life in the old world. we ask what would have motivated these europeans to migrate to america? what belongings they might have right

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