HIST 222 AMU week 4 lesson Race, Discrimination, and the Great Depression American Military University
New Deal programs were often administered in a discriminatory fashion, and black Americans were hit harder by the Great Depression than white Americans were. The NAACP vied with the Communist Party for the loyalty of black Americans. The Harlem Renaissance shaped the literature and music created by black artists in the 1930s and ‘40s and had a major influence on broader American culture for decades to come.
Topics covered will include:
- The Great Depression
- Early Relief for African Americans
- The First New Deal
- The Second New Deal
- Black Protest During the Great Depression
- Challenging Discrimination in the Courts
- Organized Labor and Black America
- The Communist Party’s Influence
- Music, Art, and Black Culture after Harlem
- Black Americans In Sports
The Great Depression
On October 24, 1929, a stock market crash sent Wall Street into a panic as investors scrambled to sell their stocks and to withdraw money from their bank accounts. This frantic reaction quickly made the economic damage from years of over-speculation very visible, and the United States entered the greatest economic downturn it had ever seen. The Great Depression, which dragged on for over a decade thereafter, made the lives of all Americans more difficult. But it affected the nation’s already-disadvantaged black communities disproportionately.
Three years after the Great Depression had begun, half the country’s banks had failed, fifteen million American workers were unemployed, and the national income had fallen from $81 billion in 1929 to $40 billion in 1932. Possibly the hardest hit were the farmers. Crop prices dropped to the point where many farmers could no longer afford even to harvest their crops, leaving them rotting in the fields.
Early Relief for African Americans
African Americans Help
Not all of the African Americans who suffered during the Great Depression were farmers and maids. Black business owners and professionals such as attorneys and accountants also struggled, as most of their clientele had been fellow African Americans who now found themselves unemployed, and the communities they served were traditionally poorer. However, the collective spirit that American blacks had developed during slavery persevered and in many ways helped those who were struggling.
Black churches gathered their resources to provide food, clothing, and housing to those who were without. African Americans who had jobs assisted those who did not as best they could and those who were unemployed took care of the homes and children of those who were working. New religious groups, such as the Nation of Islam and the United House of Prayer for All People, emerged within the black communities and also assisted the underserved in urban areas.
President Hoover’s Administration Offers Little Government Help
When President Hoover took office at the beginning of 1929, he did so with an air of great confidence, warningthe American people of the dangers of big government and excessive economic regulation. Although the lack of federal oversight of economic conditions arguably contributed to the Great Depression that began later that year, Hoover remained obstinate about not using the federal government to intervene, rather preferring a laissez-faire approach to let the economy heal itself on its own course. Hoover promoted
cooperation among the American people and between employers and their workers. He established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a group charged with the task of helping banks and insurance and industrial firms rather than individuals.
Local Governments and Family Unable to Meet Needs
Hoover also encouraged volunteerism, and believed that local governments and private charities should be the ones to provide relief to the unemployed and homeless. Often, over-burdened charities served white applicants
first, and turned away black families in need. By 1932, only one out of four unemployed American families had received any type of relief at all from local governments or charities.
Hoover’s efforts failed to relieve the nation’s economic problems, and that same year Hoover’s bid for reelection failed as well. Even though Hoover did little to assist African Americans, as he was a Republican, most of them did support him in the 1932 election. Although the Republican Party had changed much since the Civil War, to many it remained the party of emancipation.
The First New Deal
In 1933, Hoover’s opponent, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was sworn in as president. He wasted no time in implementing a series of programs designed to heal the economy and to put unemployed Americans back tO work. While the New Deal, as these programs were collectively known, was questionably effective in achieving its goal, it was a major step forward in providing equal government support to African Americans in the United States.
AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ACT
NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL RECOVERY ACT
JOBS AND WELFARE AID
The Second New Deal
PRESSURE FOR CHANGE JOBS AND OTHER AID SHIFT TO DEMOCRAT PARTY
While President Roosevelt may not have been a strong supporter of equality, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a staunch advocate for racial justice and an early proponent of the civil rights movement. Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, was a former white NAACP chapter chair as well. People such as Mrs. Roosevelt and Ickes made the effort to make government more open to African Americans. By 1935, forty-five African Americans had been appointed to high offices within the New Deal’s organization. Thirty of these individuals formed the Federal Council on Negro Affairs, charged with advising President Roosevelt on race-related affairs. This “black cabinet” was headed by educator Mary McLeod Bethune and pressured heads of federal agencies to adopt policies that discouraged or outlawed racial discrimination.