Following a decade of economic growth that featured easy money and overspeculation in stocks and land, Wall Street crashed on Black Thursday, in October 1929.
Aggravated by catastrophic weather conditions, such as the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains, the Great Depression soon spread across the country and around the world. Banks and businesses went bust and people tried to hoard their money rather than invest or spend it—further slowing the economy. As the Depression worsened, millions of people lost their jobs, homes, and possessions.
In this new learning activity from ProQuest Historical Newspapers , learn about how families were affected by the Great Depression and how they coped with its associated economic hardships.
Ordinary American citizens were hit hard by the Great Depression. For the majority of the country, the 1930s was a time of increased budgetary constraints that required cutbacks in lifestyle, including housing, nutrition, clothing, and education. American families were greatly impacted as more mothers were forced to find additional income. Widespread unemployment, due largely to downsizing, affected many people—especially African Americans, as they were often the first to be let go.
At the height of the depression, many individuals found themselves evicted or otherwise without housing. It was not unusual for men, children, or whole families to “ride the rails,” hitchhiking around the country looking for work. Overall, the Great Depression had a negative impact on a majority of individuals, and despite the much-publicized efforts of social work and aid, some in the country spent the 1930s barely able to meet their basic needs of subsistence.
1. Ask students to find articles about the personal impact of the Depression using Historical Newspapers. Students should make note of the personal and economic challenges that families faced at the time and how families tried to cope with these potentially devastating challenges.
2. Assign students to write an essay about the economic challenges of our own time, how families are struggling with the impact of the global financial crisis, and what families are doing to try to cope in meaningful ways with the threats of unemployment, loss of income, and concerns about what is happening in the housing market. Additionally, or alternatively, you could ask students to compare and contrast the government’s response to the Great Depression with the response to the current economic crisis.