Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
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Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was a renowned photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer who used his prodigious, largely self-taught talents to chronicle the African-American experience and to retell his own personal history. Gordon Parks was the first African American to work as a staff photographer for Life magazine and the first black artist to…

Item Type: Article/Essay
Date: 2008

This text highlights the growth of political activism that took place in Harlem during the Great Depression. Discriminatory hiring practices and widespread unemployment triggered job campaigns focused on increasing black employment in the largely white-owned business sector of Harlem and creating more opportunities for qualified blacks in…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 1991

In this letter to President Roosevelt, the writer provides his own definition of a "real American." His frustration regarding inadequate government relief is expressed alongside racist, anti-semitic, and nativist sentiments. The letter is signed "An American of Fifty years."

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1936

This 1934 letter to Senator Robert F. Wagner protests President Roosevelt's New Deal policies. The writer argues for stimulating private business to create employment, and against increasing the role of the federal government. Since the 19th century, some Americans had feared that socialism or communism would upset America's capitalist system and…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1934

As the Great Depression dragged on through the 1930s, critics on the left blamed the Roosevelt Administration for not going far enough. They maintained that New Deal measures had mostly shored up banks and industries without sufficiently providing for the needs of workers and ordinary people. The ongoing economic crisis was a "powder keg" that…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1936

Although Franklin D. Roosevelt never endorsed anti-lynching legislation and condoned discrimination against blacks in federally funded relief programs, he still won the hearts and the votes of many African Americans. Yet this support and even veneration for Roosevelt did not blind black Americans to the continuing discrimination that they faced.…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1935

In this letter to President Roosevelt written in 1936, Michigan workers express their gratitude for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs and urge the president to continue WPA efforts. The letter describes how working improves their self-esteem and makes them feel like active participants in society.

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1936

In this letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, an aging Southern hotel worker describes long hours and hard working conditions. Advocating on behalf of women hotel laborers, she requests a six day, 48 hour work week, and an improved pension for older workers. Her letter refers to two popular critics of the New Deal, Charles E. Coughlin and Dr. Francis…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1937

Although over a million African-American men and women served during World War II, they continued to experience discrimination in the armed forces. In addition to being relegated to segregated combat units, often in service-and-supply capacities, black soldiers found that on-base facilities such as officer's clubs and theaters were strictly…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1944

In this letter to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) recruitment center in Salt Lake City, Utah, a local official describes the positive impact of the program on enrolled youth. The CCC, enacted during the first 100 days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's first administration, remained one of the most popular New Deal programs throughout the 1930s.

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1937