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The Faces of the Depression
Transcript of The Faces of the Depression
This man used to be a hard working person with food on the table, money to spare, a job, and a place to call home. Now he is riding the rails looking for any job he can find. He doesn't just need this job for money, he needs that job to eat tonight. Jim is a hobo. He worked on a farm until dust storms drove him and his coworkers off the farm in Oklahoma. The southern stated were plagued by dust storms and many were forced off the farms because their crops were ruined. Jim was one of those people, he was forced off of his farm and forced to find work to feed himself. Hobos, which later inspired the clown, were hard working men looking for work anywhere they could find it. Hobos were known as the gentleman of the road and they offered to do odd jobs for food. Jim often took breaks at hobo jungles where fellow hobos all came together to rest, only to take off again the next day in search of work. Some hobos like Jim even put signs on doors to say something about the home owner, for example a cat on the door meant there was a nice older lady there. One thing President Roosevelt should do to help this group of people is make more opportunities for government jobs. Hobos are hard working men who will work when they find the opportunity just for food. Most of them were very honest hardworking men who just wanted their next meal.
The Kendrick Family started out as farmers. They inherited the farm from their grandparents back in 1910, before the Great War. Jeremiah and Shirley Kendrick had three children, Zinnia, Violet and Richard. When the Great War started, they entered a slump for the production of goods at the farms. Ever since then, the demand for goods decreased and the Kendrick family started to lose money. They couldn't pay for the machinery they bought for farming and went into debt. On top of that, there was a drought that dried all the fertilizer and dirt. The family had no where to stay when the Dust Bowl hit, creating the topsoil to fly through the wind. The new methods of farming did not help, it only made the Dust Bowl worse. They lost their farm to the banks and When I met them, they were on the side of the road replacing a flat tire from all they weight they had on their automobile. The Kendrick family has no water and no food and are constantly on the move looking for work. They are now headed to California to look for jobs. They also told me how upset they were to see and hear that other dairy farmers were dumping unused milk on the side of the road because no one could buy the milk they were selling. The family is starving and they need help.
The Mayfield Family
The Mayfield family sat in their ragged clothes outside their tent when we approached them. The father, a hard working, educated man, sat on a board while trying to teach his children some math in the dirt which coated the Hooverville like snow as it blew in from the western areas struggling from the drought. James, the father, lost all of his money that was in the bank because it failed after the market crash. Because his entire family was broke, the family lost their house and most of their belongings. But they aren't alone, now in 1932, 13 million (that's 12 percent of the country) are also homeless and living in shanty towns commonly referred to as Hoovervilles. James says he feels responsible for the hardships his family faces every day, despite the fact that he didn't invest money into the stock market as millions of others did. He was a hard working man who saved his money in the bank, waiting for the day he could save enough money to take his children on a vacation like many other families did during the 1920s. But it only took a week to loose all of his savings to a faulty bank that gave far too many loans to untrustworthy brokers. His bank, like 4,000 others, closed down with no money left. He refers to the crash as a tornado. It swept through the country causing eradication of the said "sound economy" leaving nothing but jungles of cardboard homes and tattered suits. To make matters worse, James was laid off just days after his savings vanished. But again, he isn't alone, 24.9% of Americans are also unemployed. His wife, Mary, was left at home trying to make ends meet. She began to sew everything by hand, eating much more corn than meat, and selling off the few things they had. Shortly after, the family couldn't pay their mortgage, and were left to fend for themselves on the streets. They found themselves outside of Chicago in a Hooverville with hundreds of others like themselves, their hope diminishing by the day.
Charles Blackburn is a voter in the 1932 United States election. Charles, despite the glorious mustache, hasn't been living an easy life the past couple years. After the stock market back in 1929, Charles lost a lot of money because he, like most Americans, played his luck and owned several stocks. Now those stocks are worthless, and Mr. Blackburn didn't have enough to pay back his broker. His bank even closed before he could withdraw any of his money. The broker then took whatever he could from James as compensation, including his house. For many months, Charles lived in a small cardboard box on the street half a block from the Empire State building. Everyday he waits in line for over an hour just for a small bowl of soup, and then wanders the city of New York with what little energy he has looking for any job available. Earlier this year, he finally gave up on New York and spent the last of his money on a train ticket to California, where he hoped to start anew. Charles was thankfully accepted into California and has found a job and a small apartment he can call his own. Mr. Roosevelt, I highly recommend that you create more jobs for our American people so no one else has to endure the hardships that this man and his mustache have barely survived.
The Mayfield Family
The Kendrick Family
Dear President Roosevelt
Dear Mr. President,
After meeting with the Mayfield family, I can truly understand the hardships our fellow Americans are facing everyday. Finding food is a struggle, and I can only imagine what winter is like braving the numbing cold outside with only a newspaper as a blanket. My suggestion is that you create something to ensure consumer's money will be safe in a bank. James Mayfield was left with nothing after his bank failed. This is a man who made smart business decisions, but was ruined by all the other people who did not make as smart of decisions regarding their finances. The bank failed and took all of the Mayfield's money with it. I can also suggest that you create a program to help increase the number of jobs available to the working class.
Wesley was the son of wealthy parents, but his father lost it all in the stock market crash. Upon losing it all, his father committed suicide and his mother was committed to a mental institution. When he turned fourteen, Wesley set out to ride the rails from town to town, city to city, state to state. Wesley and his friend seek out work wherever they can find it. A few days of work will provide the food and shelter that is needed to keep them alive. These two boys have grown up around the railroad fires and in the hobo jungles, spinning their tales to countless other hobos. These boys live day to day off their wages, buying food and clothes, but mostly food.All these boys want from the new deal is set wages and a steady job.
In this picture, Robert Odell stands along with hundreds of others waiting for their bite of bread or a hot cup of coffee. Robert, like many others throughout America lost his money in the stock market when it crashed on the day we all remember as Black Tuesday. For many this day marks the start of poverty that before this time the United States has never experienced. One day his life was wonderful. The stocks seemed to only be going in one direction: up. But just days later his world came crashing down. The stocks crumbled, his home, his money, his freshly pressed suits, his everlasting supply of food, the prosperity in general all disappeared as fast as it began. He went from living in a nice house, with a great family to standing in a breadline blocks away from the beginning of the line alone. He felt responsible for their state. After all, he was the one who invested, he was the one who put all of their savings into the market hoping to strike it rich. But he knows he's not alone in his struggle. Men walking down the street have their hooverflags exposed as if to say " me too guys... me too". It seems as if the entire city sits underneath a cloud of despair. Breadlines and soup kitchens are filled with murmurs of Hoover and whispers of what seems to be a past life. People are blaming president Hoover for their hardships. They feel betrayed, misled. Hunger has washed over the city, thousands are homeless or hungry. People are slumped on street corners or curled up on a park bench with only a "hoover blanket" to keep warm. Although Robert feels completely alone, the United States has never been so unified.
The Hooverville the Mayfield's are living in.
Everyone needs o get out of the depression somehow, and some handled it better than others. Some people are committing suicide, some people went to the movies, and some people took part in marathon dances. Those like Mary take part in long grueling dances for almost 24 straight hours. Luckily for Mary they changed this into 45 minutes of dancing and then a 15 minute break and so on. Mary didn't join because she liked to dance, she joined so that she could have a place to sleep, food to eat, and of course if you were good, the prize money. She saved up money from "silver showers" which was when people threw small coins at you while you danced. Mary wants to get out of marathon dancing, but she can't because she needs the money. One thing President Roosevelt could have done to help these people was set up some shelters. Instead of having thousands of people settled down in dumps and in "Hoovervilles", he could have set up some shelters in towns to reduce the amount of people wandering on the streets looking for their next meal.
Dear Mr. Roosevelt,
I believe that we need to find a way to give relief to these people. Maybe we can find a way to give jobs to some people so they can get food on the table. It could be possible to help the farmers start a farm again so that they can give jobs to people.
Jamal Jones: The Sharecropper
Jamal Jones was a 22 year old from South Carolina. He moved to Oklahoma in 1928 because he lost his mom to a heart attack. He is an only child. When I talked to him, he said he moved to Oklahoma and helped on a sharecropper farm. Eventually, he was a sharecropper and had his own farm. When the stock market crashed, the real landowners of the farm kicked him and his workers off his farm. As I talked to him, he said that he had a hard time finding a steady job by 1932 because African Americans were the fired first and the hired last. He told me that African American violence increased due to the hatred of the Americans and them losing jobs. They thought, "if we lose our jobs, so should the blacks." When he lost his farm, he headed north to try and find a job in the city, but there were none there. He ended up back in Oklahoma looking for another farming job. He said to me, "Everyday I see my stomach get smaller and smaller to the point where it's just skin on bones." He started to starve since there were no jobs anywhere. He lived in a camp for the longest time. He had a makeshift house behind him made of wood, tin and glass. He also mentioned that African Americans had always been in a depression, it just took the white people to see what it looks like when it happened to them. The one thing that made him happy was to see that President Roosevelt had a few African Americans as advisers in the White House. He hoped that America would finally realize that skin color doesn't matter.
Dear Mr. Roosevelt,
The African Americans may not be as favored in America as other places, but they need help. I think we should put a law on the men who fake job openings to get the African Americans in trouble. Jamal asked me not to say anything, but he has been fooled by American men saying there are jobs as sharecroppers and pickers. This incident is rude and disrespectful. The law should allow men to question other men about the jobs and how much they get paid.
To President Roosevelt
Dear Mr. President,
It seems very obvious to me, and seemingly the rest of the country, that you have a lot of work ahead of you. The country is falling apart at the seams. 12 percent of our country is unemployed, and those who are working are making up to 30 percent less than they were before the crash. I can advise you to start projects that can help employ more citizens. I also believe you should provide more food and shelter for those in need. People across the country are suffering and really need you to step up and help them, because they have nothing else to believe in.
Thousands of people line up for some food.
This here is John Waterman resting on the front tire and holding his hat in the air. When John volunteered to fight in World War I, he dropped everything and was transported to the Western Front in Europe. Upon his return he found his job was taken by an African American and his house had been repossessed by the bank. He was reduced to living with friends until he could find some where else to live. He eventually found a place to live, but he could barely afford it. So when he heard that a bunch of his army friends were going to Washington to get their veterans bonus earlier than previously promised. But when a larger than expected crowd gathered in Washington, the former president Hoover declared that they would receive their bonuses at the time previously stated. Once he heard this, he left immediately. He was thankfully gone before the soldiers fired on the crowd. Mr. President, I think that these honored war veterans should receive their bonuses when they request it. They risked their lives for this poor country and they should be rewarded for that. They payed their dues for this country, and this great country should pay them in return.
Miss Lecresha's tragic loss
Miss Lecresha was the mother of her son Daron, who was the victim of a lynch mob by the KKK. Miss Lecresha lives in a small Texas town where the KKK has a strong presence. she told me, "they come round here bout every weekend and burn some of the Holy Lord's crosses and on occasion will they hang black folks." The KKK has terrorized this community and law enforcement in the area have turned a blind eye to these on goings. "When they done hung my son I went straight to da police but da police done told me dat there wasn't no hanging last night and without evidence dat they couldn't do anything, so I took em to where my son hung in da tree and I showed em and they told me dat they didnt see nothin."
What Miss Lecresha wants from the new deal is for more fairness in race equality and more fairness to racial law enforcment.
Jimbo the Hobo
Lapsanksy-Werner. United States History. Student ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.
The Great Depression. Dir. Mario M. Cuomo. A & E Home Video, 2009. Film.