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Differing Federal Responses to the Great Depression: Letter Analysis

In this activity students read two letters (one from Hoover, one from FDR) to determine different political beliefs that guided the presidents in their responses to the Great Depression.

Objectives

  • Students will describe the differences between Hoover's and FDR's views of the role of the federal government in times of crisis.  

Instructions

Step 1: Have students read the two letters. You may ask the students to read independently or ask for two volunteers to read the letters aloud. 

Step 2: Ask students to answer the three focus questions at the end of the activity or use the Close Reading Worksheet. Students may work independently or in pairs. An alternative strategy is to ask students to make a Venn Diagram comparing the presidents' views about the role of government during times of crisis. 

Step 3: Ask students to share their responses and focus on the differences between Hoover and FDR (conservative and liberal) views of the role of the federal government.

Historical Context

The economic crisis of the Great Depression evoked two very different responses from President Herbert Hoover and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hoover and conservatives followed a path of "rugged individualism," in which the federal government should steadfastly avoid direct relief to the poor and unemployed. Rather, they believed, relief efforts should be voluntary and conducted at the local level. FDR and the liberals believed that the powers of the federal government should be expanded to help those in need by providing direct relief in the form of food, money, jobs, etc., even if this entailed more government spending.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2009.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Differing Federal Responses to the Great Depression: Letter Analysis,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed November 14, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1375.

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