English Literature - Of Mice and Men - Context of the book in America 1920/30's

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  • Created by: wr.1400
  • Created on: 27-10-13 15:25


The Jim Crow laws were designed to keep the races separated in America and the black population under control.

Typical segregation laws included:

  • Public Transport: Waiting rooms, White Priority
  • Public Places: Shops, Hotels, Cinemas, Theatres, Libraries
  • Facilities: Toilets, Water Fountains
  • Education: Separate schools, Supposedly equal education but they were far from similar
  • Marriage: Southern state marriages between black and white was illegal
  • Employment: Pay for blacks was less, lower statuses
  • Residential: Areas for each race.

Poor education and jobs also meant they were unable to pay the poll tax to be able to vote. To many black people were still seen as lower class and different even after the slave trade ended in the 1880's

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Immigrants came to America in the 1920’s as the boom made it appear as the land of opportunity and wealth. There were better living conditions, improved quality of life, political / religious freedom and more jobs.

They were hired by farmers to carry out hard manual jobs which none of the locals would do. They often worked for about 12 hours a day and received the minimum wage.

The jobs were mainly agricultural such as:

  • Picking fruit
  • Ploughing and sewing the land

The number of migrants increased during the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s.

The number of immigrants to America increased dramatically causing the introduction of the Immigration Law (1917) requiring that all immigrants speak English and the Emergency Quota Act (1921). This limited the number of immigrants to 3% of the number already in America (from 1910) from the specific country in question.

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The Great Depression in America began in October 1929. After the boom in the 1920’s the stock market prices had increased continuously. However American’s began to own all the goods they wanted resulting in factories over producing them. As they reduced them it turned in to a cycle of depression. There was a un-equal distribution of wealth and the tariff policy was copied meaning Americans were unable to sell products abroad.

During 1928 share prices didn’t rise as much as previously. Some investors noticed and sold their shares. Gradually throughout the year they continued to drop until shareholders were selling for whatever price they were able to get.

Effects of the Wall Street Crash and the Cycle of Depression:

  • Banks: Closed down after asking for money people didn’t have.
  • Confidence: Confidence in the American government was lost
  • Poverty: Increased as people became homeless due to lack of money
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The Dust Bowl was a period around the 1930’s when a drought killed crops and dried out the ground. This then caused a yellowish brown haze of dust blowing from the North to be created.

Effects of the Dust Bowl:

  • Dust Masks: Breathing and Eating became difficult as dust hung in the air, Bad health increased as dust was caught in lungs
  • Bad Housing: Dust covered even the most secure of houses
  • Crops: Soil was covered in dust, Nothing grew, Land became worthless
  • Migrant Workers: The land was no longer useful for farming so they left searching for work in California

The most affected areas were the Southern Plains where the sky would often stay a murky brown colour for days.

Farmers were unable to sell their land or use it for anything.

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March 25th 1931: Nine black boys (aged 13 to 19) board the Southern Railway line to Memphis. Also on the train are several white boys and two white girls. A fight breaks out between to the white and black boys. The white boys are forced off the train and the nine black boys are later arrested for assault and attempted murder. The two girls later accuse them of ****. All boys plead not guilty at court.

April 7th 1931: The boys are sentenced to death by electrocution by a fully white court.

May 7th 1931: There are many protests across the country. Various appeals and trials are held.

February 15th 1935: One of the boys argues they were excluded because of their race.

July 1937: The boys are sentenced after various trials.

  • Convicted and Sentenced: Andy Wright - 99 years, Charlie Weems - 75 years, Ozie Powell - 20 years, Clarence Norris - Death, later lifted to life inprisonment
  • Charges Dropped: Roy Wright and Eugene Williams, on account of their young age. Olen Montgomery and Willie Roberson, found not guilty
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