The Great Depression (1929–1939) for AP U.S. History
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Summary: The Great Depression had a monumental effect on American society, and its effects are still felt today. Franklin Roosevelt, the architect of the New Deal, is considered by many to be one of America's greatest presidents, and he was the model for activist presidents who desired to utilize the power of the federal government to assist those in need. The origins of the Great Depression can be found in economic problems in America in the late 1920s: "installment buying" and buying stocks "on the margin" would come back to haunt many homeowners and investors. The stock market crash of 1929 was followed by bank failures, factory closings, and widespread unemployment. President Herbert Hoover believed that voluntary action by business and labor interest could pull America out of its economic doldrums. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 with the promise of a "New Deal" for the American people. During his first hundred days in office, Roosevelt acted forcefully to restore confidence in the banks, stabilize prices, and give many young people work through the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the Second New Deal later in the 1930s, measures such as the Social Security Act were enacted to provide a safety net for Americans in need. Some critics of the New Deal branded it socialism; others said it didn't go far enough to fight poverty in America. New Deal policies never ended the Great Depression; America's entry into World War II did.
Hoovervilles: settlements of shacks found on the outskirts of many American cities beginning in the early 1930s.
Dust Bowl: the name given in the 1930s to regions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas, where severe drought and poor farming practices caused massive dust storms. By the end of the decade, nearly 60 percent of all farms there were either ruined or abandoned. Many from the Dust Bowl ended up moving westward in search of jobs.
Hawley-Smoot Tariff (1930): tariff act that imposed severe tariffs on all incoming goods; European countries responded with their own high tariffs. Most historians say this tariff did little to help the American economy.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): federal agency established during the "First Hundred Days" of the New Deal in 1933 in an effort to halt panic over bank closings. The FDIC insures the bank deposits of individual citizens.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): also established in 1933, the CCC eventually provided jobs for 2.5 million young Americans in forest and conservation programs.
National Industry Recovery Act: New Deal legislation requiring owners and labor unions in various industries to agree upon hours, wages, and prices; as a result, wages did go up for many workers but so did prices.
Tennessee Valley Authority: agency created in the New Deal to oversee the construction of dams, providing electricity and flood control for many in the Tennessee River Valley; for many in the region, this was the first time their homes had electricity.
Works Progress Administration (WPA): New Deal program that employed nearly eight million Americans; WPA projects included the construction of schools and roads. Unemployed artists and musicians were also employed by the WPA.
Wagner Act: critical piece of New Deal legislation that protected the right of workers to form unions and utilize collective bargaining.
Social Security Act (1935): New Deal legislation providing pensions for workers reaching retirement age. Both workers and employers pay into the fund that provides this benefit. Initially, farm workers and domestic workers were not covered by Social Security.
New Deal Coalition: The political coalition created by Franklin Roosevelt that, by and large, kept the Democratic Party in power from the 1930s through the 1960s; this coalition consisted of workers in American cities, voters in the South, labor unions, and blacks.
Scottsboro Boys: nine black defendants in a famous 1931 case; they were accused of raping two white women on a train, and despite the lack of evidence, eight were sentenced to death. The American Communist Party organized their defense.