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The Faces of the Great Depression

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Sarah Fox

on 10 April 2015

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Transcript of The Faces of the Great Depression

One Nation, Many Problems
A Mother Whose Son Has
Been Lynched
Dear President Roosevelt,
Over the past few months there has been a steady growth of racial tensions in the south since the start of the Great depression. Norma Gene, age 46, mother of 3 children has been living in a shack for the past 3 months. Her son, John, a factory worker was the families only source of income. Due to growing racial tensions there have been a number if riots and protests between the whites and blacks of southern Alabama. 3 months ago John and a couple of his friends along with 300 other African American males participated in a large protest in Tuscaloosa. What started as a peaceful protest soon erupted into a riot between the protesters and members of the local KKK chapter. John and his friends were jumped, publicly humiliated and eventually lynched in a display of white supremacy. Since then, Norma and her 2 living children have taken to the streets to beg for food. President Roosevelt I propose that you outlaw lynching and end segregation to end the KKK's reign of terror. I also propose that you set up monthly food distribution across the nation along with building multiple shelters to provide government housing for the homeless.
your advisor,
Henry Thomas
I am a 27 year old woman from Philadelphia, PA. I am a married to Fredrick W. Adams and I have 1 child named Helen. The Depression has hit us hard so as of now we aren't planning on having more children, it's just too expensive. Fredrick had a job as an architect before the crash, but by 1930 business was decreasing, so he was let go. We live in a small house with a lot of my family, so we can combine our money, so we don't have to live in a Hooverville. My husband and I are about to catch a movie at $0.15 a ticket. It's a great way to get our minds off our troubles and lets us dream of a rich lifestyle. I love comedies like the Three Stooges while Fredrick likes the action-types. We are embarrassed of our standard of living nowadays. We used to have a nice home and 2 cars. We now don't have our own house and no car, we had to sell it to get money for food. I would advise Roosevelt to enact laws to help businesses start up again and let the money "trickle down" to the workers. Also government agencies should not give free handouts to the poor but start projects as temporary jobs for working men and women.
Teenage boy 'riding the rails'
Joe Douglas is a young man the age of 17. Like many others who are poverty stricken, Douglas needs a way to gain an income. The major problem with living in Oklahoma is the lack of jobs- and therefore money. For the past year, Douglas has found himself hopping on and off of trains looking for jobs. This new trend has been occurring in both urban and rural communities; both areas are under the impression that 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. More than 683,000 "ho-boys", or train-jumpers, have been thrown from trains. Even through train hopping is illegal, it doesn't stop the thousands of men, women, and even children from sneaking into train cars. "I just have nothing else to do to get money," Douglas says. "At one point, I even hid under a box car and nearly got my back ripped off." Some railroad companies have decided to add extra box cars just for train hoppers. When asked to make a recommendation to the president, Douglas replies,"I think that Roosevelt should encourage companies to offer more jobs and better pay rates. I also think that every train should have a box car just for us and give us free food. It doesn't have to be much, just something to give us energy."
A Movie-Goer
Hobo
Bonus Army Veterans
Man on a street corner
Hello, my name is Edward Stevenson. I used to live in a nice, semi-simple house with my family in New York until the Depression hit. After that we moved to a Hooverville and nothing has been the same. I haven't had any luck finding a job. I've resorted to standing on a street corner with a sign hanging on me listing every attribute I have that I consider useful in the workforce. I've never seen so many men doing something like this. I knew people were homeless prior to this but to see so many that had money and nice things is almost appalling. Even my best friend, George Howard is homeless now and he owned his own company! Many people went with selling apples instead of their house but they weren't guaranteed good apples. There were 6,000 at a time going to the Apple Growers' Association in New York. The better the apples, the better the profit and vice versa. The Depression hit the working and lower class hard. Because of the situation, my children, wife and I are starving. My children gave up school to help get money for us. This situation is the same for most if not all families. President Roosevelt, we beg you to put a stop to this. We need jobs and proper food and shelter. We know you're busy but please make jobs for us. We need to take care of our families properly. This is all we ask.
Dear Franklin D. Roosevelt,
This state of misery that I have been living in is no longer worth living to me. Since I am a stockbroker in New York, the crash of the stock market greatly influenced me in all aspects of life. My past investors have been demanding their money back, but the banks don't have the money that the people demand. Not to mention, I also owe money to the banks because my investors needed loans. In addition, I'm getting kicked out of my apartment because I can't pay the mortgage. I have no money to buy food, so I am forced to embarrass my pride by going to soup kitchens and waiting in bread lines just to survive. I was once a very prestigious business man, and now I am living in poverty all because of this "depression" as Hoover calls it. I believe that you can make a difference in the lives of my fellow stockbrokers, but as for me, I am too far gone to be helped. I suggest that you use the government's money to support financially the destitute because helping humanity is more important than any amounts of money. All in all, I am so much in debt that I can't even afford to live anymore.
~John Williams
Dear Sir, I am traveling to the Big Rock Candy mountain in California. I am traveling as a hobo. I have to travel for work and had to leave my family in Kansas because the bank evicted me off my land. I feel ashamed that I had to leave them, but it was necessary. My farm had been in trouble since the 1920s. What broke my heart was not only leaving my family, but having to get ride of our products. Unfortunately, the road it not very kind, but I was not expecting it to be easy at all. Sometimes, though I know it is illegal, I ride the trains to get from place to place.The public sees hobos as public nuisances , but hobos live by an oath. We are not bums that beg; We actually work, but when we do we get low wages. Some people have no problems with us hobos, but some are good Samaritans. We leave marks on people's buildings showing other hobos if the place is good to stay or not. I haven't seen my Pa and Ma in years now ever since the stock market crash. I don't think that they are living anymore. They were pretty old and their farm was also owned by the bank. Also their farm might have been affected by the Dust Bowls. Pa wouldn't have wanted to become a hobo, but he might be moving out west to California as well. Sir, my recommendation is that you should have federal projects. Also to have people not be so judgemental to us. Hopefully soon I can find a decent job with decent pay for this time.

From a gentleman of the road, Leonard James.
Dear Mr. Roosevelt, I am Leo MacNeal and from Boston, Massachusetts. I am a former U.S. Marine Sargent. As you well know, a few years ago the veterans of World War 1 with their families encamped in Washington, D.C. We wanted our bonus that was promised to us for 1945. The reason we wanted it was we believe that having our bonus will help us to combat the depression for us and our families. At that time though, President Hoover called in the army and General Douglas MacArthur used force on us to drive us away. We faced guns, tanks, and tear gas. The depression has affected my family immensely. We have to scavenge for food and live in make shift huts. I am trying to find decent work, but the jobs are either filled or the pay is little to nothing. Just getting my kids something to eat is a challenge. Many times I have given all my food to them and it still didn't suffice. I do have a job, but I am in constant fear of losing it. Everyone is trying to get a job and no one has to be skilled. Also we can't go to see pictures anymore on Saturdays. It's really hard to escape the depression even for a second and not be crushed by all the despair. All I want from you, Mr. President is the bonus that was promised. Even a little bit of the bonus will help or working on a federal project. I just need to make enough money so that everyone in my family can have a decent meal.
A Voter In The 1932 Election
Margaret Adams
William Chaves
I am a farm owner in South Carolina. I have a wife named Carol and 3 daughters. The Depression didn't hit us too badly even though crop prices dropped. We still have our workers who we pay well, since I know these are tough times for many. We had enough saved through the 1920s and when the Stock Market crashed, I invested money in and made it big. The most recent election choice is going to change our nation for the worse.I believe Herbert Hoover would have been the best man to keep our nation afloat. His laissez-faire approach would have let the market right itself, since every market has its ups and downs. The government should stay out of it. Roosevelt is just going to give free handouts to the poor which isn't going to help anyone; it does more hurt than good. I would recommend Roosevelt to take up some of Hoover's policies, because it would benefit our nation greatly.
African American Sharecropper
Works Consulted
(In-class Video) The Great Depression. Dir. Mario M. Cuomo. A & E Home Video, 2009. Film.

(General AH Book) American Heritage Publishing Staff. America: Pathways to the Present.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall (School Division), 2005. Print.

(Honors US Book) Lapsanksy-Werner. United States History. Student ed. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Dear Mr.President,
Child of the Dustbowl
Hiya, I'm Kenneth Meeks. I live with my ma and pa in Oklahoma. Life's been tough out here in the Midwest. Before our crops were overproducing and we had to sestroy our goods and now we can barely keep our crops growin'! The weather ain't suiting us. The droughts and wind caused a mighty dust storm that destroyed our homes and our crops. We ain't getting money either my pa said. He said we gotta head to California so we can make somethin' of our life. Because of this Depression, we ain't got food so we are goin' hungry and now we gotta leave our home for a place that is foreign to us. All I ask of President Roosevelt is that he can help all of us that are headed to Cali to make a living for ourselves and find where we belong in that crazy place. All any of us want is to be able to farm and sell our goods. Please Roosevelt. Please.
My name is Jon Brown. I am a negro sharecropper from Mississippi.I rent 40 acres of farmland with 5 other Negroes. This past year has proven to be the hardest on the south since the beginning of the great depression. Severe droughts and dust storms have left the fields barren. Over half the crops don't even sprout. Profit has declined drastically. I can no longer produce enough crops to pay my land owner. If i dont grow enough crops by the end of the month i will be evicted and be forced to live on the streets. I can no longer provide my wife and kids with adequate food. It breaks my heart that I cant afford to send my two boys to school. If i lose this job i will lose everything. Mr.President I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider creating government projects that would generate profit and provide the millions of jobless Americans with jobs.
Sincerely,
Jon Brown
Stockbroker
Reporter Abby Burkholder of
The Bee's Knees News
Jon Brown
Norma Gene
Full transcript