African Americans - Depression and New Deal

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 13:53

1930s is often overlooked in terms of black progress and yet it is an extraordinary decade in American history.

  1. Unprecedented in terms of government intervention into everyday lives of ordinary Americans, the New Deal was an extraordinary experiment in left leaning polices in a strictly capitalist country
  2. It is also a watershed decade for the ending of American's position as second rate power to becoming a global superpower
  3. It is also a watershed for general black support of the republicans as they shift to becoming democrat voters
  4. There was also bifurcation as there was an establishment of a black middle class


On 24 October 1929, the bubble burst. The USA was bust. On that day, shares on the New York Stock Exchange plummeted to an all-time low. The panic that ensued had a spiral effect, results in the closure of banks and the bankruptcy of business. Wealthy men were ruined and ordinary people became unemployed in unprecedented numbers. The USA was plunged into a huge economic and social crisis that dominated at least the first half of the 1930s.

What was the impact of the depression on the USA?

  • Gross national product had fallen from $104 million to $59 million
  • 24.9% of the labour force was unemployed
  • Average earnings had dropped from $25 to $17 a week from those still in work
  • Industrial and agricultural production had more than halved
  • Massive cutbacks had been made in public spending, particularly on such things as education
  • The big cities in particular had large unemployment; in Chicago,  for example, 40% of the population was unemployed 

What was the impact of the depression on black Americans?

  • Economic
    • Black America was hit the hardest by the economic blizzard
    • In some northern cities, the rate of black unemployment reached 60%
    • Rural areas were being devastated by the Depression. Farmers were already struggling before the Depression hit. Cotton planters in the south were some of the worst hit
    • 2 million farmers were ejected from their lands
  • Political
    • A reduction in the spending on education particularly hit African Americans. This was especially true in the south, where states cut back on spending on black schools. On the other hand, the number of black students entering higher education grew steadily throughout the period after 1918. By 1933, there were 38,000 black students in colleges. The majority of these (97%) were in the south. So the impact of educational cuts may not have effected African American education greatly
    • President Hoover did nothing to help with the Depression, believing in ruggered individualism
  • Socio-Cultural
    • The black population of the cities increased even more during the Depression paradoxically, as more and more people moved away from the agricultural south, where the cotton economy had collapsed, in search of jobs.
    • Competition for work remained desperate, as unemployed white people were now prepared to do any job, including those that previously only black people had done.
    • Large sections of the American population suffered as a result of hunger and disease, particularly between 1929 and


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