In rural areas where such documentation was lacking, the number was likely far higher. And while the middle class did not suffer from starvation, they experienced hunger as well. By the time Hoover left office in , the poor survived not on relief efforts, but because they had learned to be poor. A family with little food would stay in bed to save fuel and avoid burning calories. People began eating parts of animals that had normally been considered waste.
Family members swapped clothes; sisters might take turns going to church in the one dress they owned.
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Most African Americans did not participate in the land boom and stock market speculation that preceded the crash, but that did not stop the effects of the Great Depression from hitting them particularly hard. Subject to continuing racial discrimination, blacks nationwide fared even worse than their hard-hit white counterparts. As the prices for cotton and other agricultural products plummeted, farm owners paid workers less or simply laid them off. Landlords evicted sharecroppers, and even those who owned their land outright had to abandon it when there was no way to earn any income.
In cities, African Americans fared no better. Unemployment was rampant, and many whites felt that any available jobs belonged to whites first. In some Northern cities, whites would conspire to have African American workers fired to allow white workers access to their jobs. Even jobs traditionally held by black workers, such as household servants or janitors, were now going to whites.
By , approximately one-half of all black Americans were unemployed.
Racial violence also began to rise. In the South, lynching became more common again, with twenty-eight documented lynchings in , compared to eight in Since communities were preoccupied with their own hardships, and organizing civil rights efforts was a long, difficult process, many resigned themselves to, or even ignored, this culture of racism and violence. Occasionally, however, an incident was notorious enough to gain national attention. One such incident was the case of the Scottsboro Boys. In , nine black boys, who had been riding the rails, were arrested for vagrancy and disorderly conduct after an altercation with some white travelers on the train.
Two young white women, who had been dressed as boys and traveling with a group of white boys, came forward and said that the black boys had raped them.see url
'Families were devastated': looking back on the Great Depression via art
The case, which was tried in Scottsboro, Alabama, reignited decades of racial hatred and illustrated the injustice of the court system. Despite significant evidence that the women had not been raped at all, along with one of the women subsequently recanting her testimony, the all-white jury quickly convicted the boys and sentenced all but one of them to death.
The verdict broke through the veil of indifference toward the plight of African Americans, and protests erupted among newspaper editors, academics, and social reformers in the North. In all, the case was tried three separate times. The series of trials and retrials, appeals, and overturned convictions shone a spotlight on a system that provided poor legal counsel and relied on all-white juries.
In October , the U. Eventually, most of the accused received lengthy prison terms and subsequent parole, but avoided the death penalty.
U.S. Unemployment Rate History
The Scottsboro case ultimately laid some of the early groundwork for the modern American civil rights movement. Alabama granted posthumous pardons to all defendants in The trial and conviction of nine African American boys in Scottsboro, Alabama, illustrated the numerous injustices of the American court system. Despite being falsely accused, the boys received lengthy prison terms and were not officially pardoned by the State of Alabama until Despite the widely held belief that rural Americans suffered less in the Great Depression due to their ability to at least grow their own food, this was not the case.
Farmers, ranchers, and their families suffered more than any group other than African Americans during the Depression. From the turn of the century through much of World War I, farmers in the Great Plains experienced prosperity due to unusually good growing conditions, high commodity prices, and generous government farming policies that led to a rush for land.
As the federal government continued to purchase all excess produce for the war effort, farmers and ranchers fell into several bad practices, including mortgaging their farms and borrowing money against future production in order to expand. However, after the war, prosperity rapidly dwindled, particularly during the recession of Seeking to recoup their losses through economies of scale in which they would expand their production even further to take full advantage of their available land and machinery, farmers plowed under native grasses to plant acre after acre of wheat, with little regard for the long-term repercussions to the soil.
Regardless of these misguided efforts, commodity prices continued to drop, finally plummeting in , when the price of wheat dropped from two dollars to forty cents per bushel.
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Exacerbating the problem was a massive drought that began in and lasted for eight terrible years. Dust storms roiled through the Great Plains, creating huge, choking clouds that piled up in doorways and filtered into homes through closed windows. Even more quickly than it had boomed, the land of agricultural opportunity went bust, due to widespread overproduction and overuse of the land, as well as to the harsh weather conditions that followed, resulting in the creation of the Dust Bowl. The dust storms that blew through the Great Plains were epic in scale.
Drifts of dirt piled up against doors and windows. People wore goggles and tied rags over their mouths to keep the dust out. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Livestock died, or had to be sold, as there was no money for feed. Crops intended to feed the family withered and died in the drought.
To put this number in perspective, geologists estimate that it takes the earth five hundred years to naturally regenerate one inch of topsoil; yet, just one significant dust storm could destroy a similar amount. In their desperation to get more from the land, farmers had stripped it of the delicate balance that kept it healthy.
However, because so many people moved to California an estimated 1. Ranch workers like George and Lennie often moved from one place to another looking for work, as jobs on ranches would be temporary and seasonal. Wages for men like these were low and jobs were scarce, so the lifestyle that they lived was very insecure.
Without work, people would have no way of supporting themselves. This is why the dream is so important to George and Lennie: it would give them a sense of safety and independence. Although all Americans were affected by the Great Depression, African Americans were hit the hardest. In some cities in the northern states, white people called for black people to be fired from their jobs due to unemployment in the white communities.
But we got no crops. We had five crop failures in five years. Rising unemployment. Men begging in the streets. But there was more to the Great Depression. At that time, the federal government did not guarantee the money that people put in banks.
When people could not repay loans, banks began to close. In nineteen twenty-nine, six hundred fifty-nine banks with total holdings of two-hundred-million dollars went out of business. The next year, two times that number failed. And the year after that, almost twice that number of banks went out of business. Millions of persons lost all their savings. They had no money left. Hospitals across the country were filled with sick people whose main illness was a lack of food. The health department in New York City found that one of every five of the city's children did not get enough food.
Ninety-nine percent of the children attending a school in a coal-mining area of the country reportedly were underweight. In some places, people died of hunger. Families were forced to crowd into small houses or apartments to share costs. Many people had no homes at all.
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They slept on public streets, buses or trains. One official in Chicago reported in nineteen thirty-one that several hundred women without homes were sleeping in city parks. In a number of cities, people without homes built their houses from whatever materials they could find. They used empty boxes or pieces of metal to build shelters in open areas. So, too, did the men forced to sleep in public parks at night.
They covered themselves with pieces of paper. And they called the paper "Hoover blankets. People blamed President Hoover because they thought he was not doing enough to help them.
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Hoover did take several actions to try to improve the economy. But he resisted proposals for the federal government to provide aid in a major way. And he refused to let the government spend more money than it earned.