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The Impact of the Great Depression on Black Americans

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The Impact of the Great Depression on Black Americans

The stock market crash of October 1929 was the prelude to the Great Depression. It was a time of hardship and sorrow for many people. American morale was low, and money and food were scarce. Poverty and despair, however, were not foreign to the Black Americans; poverty had been common to them since their days of captivity. To many Black Americans who lived in the south, it was the return of old times.

Sharecroppers and farm workers always lived in the midst of strife; they were never able to make a decent living. The boll weevil, soil erosion, and foreign competition had destroyed the cotton crop in the early Twenties. Life was difficult. No profits were being made, and although many southern blacks believed that life in the north was better, it was not much different. Black Americans working in the northern industries were living in poverty even before the stock market crash because they had been laid off; they were often replaced with white workers. When the Depression occurred, "more black workers than white lost their jobs. In 1931, about one out of every three Blacks was jobless, and one out of four whites" (Meltzer 210).

People, especially blacks, were being put out of work everywhere; the wave of depression had hit the entire country. Banks were failing, and the cities, in a desperate attempt to provide relief, were running out of money. Because President Hoover was confident that business conditions would soon improve, federal funds were not used to provide relief; relief was the responsibility of private charities. City allowances soon ran out, and there was no money left. Pennies were used to buy food and fuel. Many people went without food in order to p...

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...d a march on Washington with ten-thousand members of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. President Roosevelt did not want this march to happen, and as a result, he issued Executive Order 8802 which prohibited discrimination in federal jobs. FDR also began the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FPEC) to ensure that his order was carried out.

The Great Depression was the beginning of a new movement in the lives of Black Americans. The seeds of equality were sprouting, and Black Americans were hoping for a day when they would receive full civil rights without discrimination. The bud of the civil rights movement was forming.

Works Cited:

Levine, Michael L. African Americans and Civil Rights: From 1619 to the Present. Arizona: Oryx Press, 1996.

Meltzer, Milton. The Black Americans: A History in Their Own Words 1619-1983. New York: Crowell, 1984.
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