Unemployment 2_great_depression.jpg

  • Many believed in personal responsibility for one's own fate (unemployment/poverty were signs of failure)
  • Examples:
    • Cleveland, Ohio in 1932 had unemployment rate of 50%
    • Akron had rate of 60%
    • Toledo had rate of 80%


  • Number of families that turned to state/local public relief increased but the relief systems were not equipped for the high demands that were placed on them
    • private charities tried to supplement public efforts but also could not face the demands
    • state govts. felt pressured to expand assistance to unemployed but could not place more strain on the budget
  • breadlines stretched for blocks outside of soup kitchens at Red Cross and Salvation Army
    • thousands looked through trash cans for food
  • almost 2 million young men became nomads by riding freight trains from city to city

Farm Life

  • farm income decreased by 60% between 1929 and 1932 dust_bowl.jpg
  • 1/3 of all American farmers lost their land
  • Great Plains of the South and West suffered from horrific decade long drought
    • Texas to the Dakotas became known as the Dust Bowl starting in 1930
    • decline in rainfall and increase in heat
    • swarms of grashoppers destroyed what crops were left
    • dust storms or "black blizzards" blocked out sun and suffocated any living creatures left outside
  • "Okies" or families from the Dust Bowl usually from Oklahoma moved to CA looking for better conditions but usually not found

African Americans

  • suffered from more malnutrition, disease, unemployment, and homelessness than most whites
  • more than half still lived in South at beginning of depression
  • since price of cotton fell so dramatically many were left unemployed (but unemployed whites felt they had first claim to any available jobs)
  • whites created organizations and intimidation to drive African Americans from jobs (ex. Black Shirts in Atlanta had the slogan "No Jobs for Niggers Until Every White Man has a Job!")
  • many migrate to the North which had conditions not much better then the South but were less blatantly discriminated against
  • Scottsboro Caseof 1931
    • 9 black teens were kicked off a freight train and arrested for vagrancy and disorder and later accused of raping two white women (although all medical evidence showed that the women had not been raped)
    • all-white jury in the Alabama courthouse found all 9 guilty and sentenced to death
    • case was overturned in 1932 by Supreme Court
    • new trials began and the International Labor Defense and NAACP help defend the accused
    • all eventually gained freedom although never acquitted (4 because charges were dropped, 4 because they got early parole, and 1 because he escaped)
  • NAACP worked to help break racial barriers that were in labor unions, form Congress of Industrial Organizations, and gain spot for blacks in labor movement

Mexican Americans (called Chicanos)

  • mostly lived in urban areas of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Detroit, Chicago, and New York
  • some were farming migrantsa or held menial jobs
  • like blacks the whites demanded jobs over Mexican Americans
  • unemployment levels rose quickly and some were forced to leave country by officials (about half a million left US for Mexico in the first years of Depression)
  • discriminated against and not included in most relief programs, no access to American schools, and refused admission to hospitals
  • some organized in California as a union of migrant farmers but never had much impact because of the harsh repression

Asian Americans

  • also discriminated against
  • largest pop. of Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans was in California where even for those that were educated it was hard/impossible to get major profession
  • most Japanese-Americans worked at family fruit stands including college graduates
  • Japanese American Democratic Clubs created to get laws protecting racial/ethnic minorities from discrimination passed
  • Japanese American Citizens League was created in 1930 to encourage assimilation of the Nisei
  • Chinese-Americans continued to suffer as well and still worked in family owned laundries/restaurants


  • in 1930s single + married women worked outside the home because they were in need of money even though it was publicly frowned upon
  • 20% more women working at end of Depression than at the beginning
  • nonprofessional jobs (salesclerks, stenographers and other service jobs) held by women were less likely to disappear than the industrial jobs of men
  • black women suffered greatly from unemployment but still by the end 38% of black womeGreat_Depression_Woman_and_Children.jpgn were working and only 24% if white women


  • went from increasing standard of living in 1920s to the uncertainty of the Depression
  • retreat from consumerism
  • women sewed clothes for family and preserved their own food
  • some started home businesses (ex. taking laundry, selling baked goods, or accepting boarders)
  • distant relatives/entire families lived together
  • decline in divorce rate but mostly because it was too expensive instead familiesjust broke apart
  • marriage and birth rates also declined

Sources/Extra Information: Textbook, Pictures