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May 8th, 2014

75th anniversary of the Grapes of Wrath

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the American classic ” The Grapes of Wrath” written by acclaimed author John Steinbeck. Use this resource collection to find lesson plans, articles, videos, photography collections and human rights programs related to the the core issues brought to light in this Nobel Prize winning piece of literature. Included are education materials that can help you engage students in a discussion of the book’s relevancy today.

Online Resource | Biography of John Steinbeck


Use this resource from Biography.com  to inform students about the life of “The Grapes of Wrath” author John Steinbeck. Experiences from Steinbeck’s personal life often become the landscape for his novels, which he famously gave a voice to America’s poor during some of the countries darkest days.

Audio resource | NPR: ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ Is 75, But Its Depictions Of Poverty Are Timeless

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In this reflective analysis, author Lynn Neary examines the relevancy of John Steinbeck’s American classic, ” The Grapes of Wrath,” 75 years after it was originally published. Neary interviews Steinbeck expert Susan Shillinglaw, an English professor at San Jose State University.

Online resources |  Teaching Steinbeck and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ With The New York Times 

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This comprehensive resource created by Katherine Schulten provides more than 10 lesson plans for the classroom, multiple related activities for students and a rich collection of articles on “The Grapes of Wrath” and related topics.

Photography | MoMA collection of Dorothea Lange’s work

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Photographer Dorthea Lange captured some of the most famous images from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl eras that took place during the 1930s in the United States. Use her work to provide imagery and context for “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Online resources | The Steinbeck Institute 

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Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this intensive cross curricular program brought together Steinbeck scholars from across the country who in turn created resources for the classroom. Included on their website are lesson plans, maps, and photo galleries.

 Online resources | The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns

This documentary by Ken Burns, which aired on PBS, chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts, and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. It was the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. A great contextual or enrichment piece to support “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Video resource | Down in the Salinas Valley

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This informative 25-minute resource from PBS Need to Know brings the story of the continuing struggle of California’s farm workers into the spotlight. As the debate over immigration reform continues in Washington, D.C., Need to Know offers an inside look at the lives of Latino farm workers. In a continuation of the“Main Street” series, correspondent John Larson reports from Salinas, California — home to John Steinbeck and some of the richest farmlands in the world.

Video resource | John Steinbeck’s acceptance speech for the 1962 Nobel Prize

In 1962 John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to literature.

Teaching kit | Viva La Causa

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Teaching Tolerance brings the story of California grape workers to life in this free educator’s kit. Viva La Causa focuses on one of the seminal events in the march for human rights – the grape strike and boycott led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the 1960s. Viva la Causa will show how thousands of people from across the nation joined in a struggle for justice for the most exploited people in our country: the workers who put food on our tables.

Lesson plan | Speak Truth To Power: Librada Paz

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Use this lesson plan created by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power program to inform students on modern day human rights hero Librada Paz. This resource will help students to connect with the struggles of farm workers and inspire students to become human rights defenders within their own community.

See what students in New York are doing to promote fair labor practices in their own communities through the Except Farmworkers campaign.

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