Tag Archives: Dust Bowl

How did Americans Respond to the Great Depression

Simply, there is no easy answer.  Every American experienced pleasure or pain during those troubled years, and formed bonds with their loved ones or destroyed them unlike anything comparable before in America save modern day.

“There is no longer I, There is We, the day of the individual is over,” Dorthy Parker said.

That quote is the easiest way to describe the response Americans responded to the Great DEpression.  Of course modern day can look at those events and say, well why didn’t you do this or that, but hindsight is 20/20.  To have lived during the turmoil would give those who nay-say a ,different perspective of the world.  “What is going to become of us?  You can’t sleep, you know, You wake up at 2 a.m. and you lie and think” (America’s History, p737).  The depression only one-sided, affecting onyl one culture in America, Whites and Blacks , and everything in between, felt the crisis.  Some prospered but most suffered.

With life nearly impossible in the “Dust Bowl,” as well, many people fled the country and headed into the cities, where poor housing and disease ran unchecked.  Also, with the Riot of 1935 in Harlem, NY, desperate events finally led to extreme measures.  For example, something as simple as a boy stealing a penknife, and then arrested and set free, escalated with rumors that the cops killed the boy.  Riots ensued shortly after, resulting in 125 arrests, 100 injured, and three dead.  This is to show how stressed and harrassed people were that they would set fire to their own homes, but this is also a common act by those living in poor communities as well.

Another response to the depression was President Roosevelt launching his New Desal program his first term.  Roosevelt, who relied heavily on his “Brain Trust” of professors from Columbia and Harvard, promised “Act Now”, and in his first months he participated in a legislative session known as the “Hundred Days,” where Congress enacted fifteen bills enacting multiple social reforms.  Also, after his inauguration FDR declared a national “bank holiday,” and then called Congress to pass the Energency Banking Act.  This permitted banks to re-open if the Treasury Department inspection showed they had sufficient funds. (America’s History, p739)

There are many different outlooks to pursue: economic, social, labor, gender, race, culture, religion, penal, philosophical, environmental.  These are just some of the responses of the Great Depression, do you have your own story, personal or familial?

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