Life in US During 1930-44


The Great Depression

In 1930, America was beginning to feel the effects of the Stock market crash of October 1929.  A deepening economic depression that affected the world would cause banks to fail, businesses to close, and millions to lose their jobs. People became desperate. World War I veterans sought compensation for their service. They converged on Washington, DC and had a siege there while the officials were unresponsive. They built shacks and camped in Washington. They were fired on by police and the military. They didn’t receive their compensation.

In the Midwest, dust storms destroyed crops and thousands of farms were foreclosed. The farmers lost everything. Many of them migrated to California in hopes of a better life. They were called Okies, because many of them came from Oklahoma. With no resources, they often became migrant workers picking fruit for nearly no money.

Prohibition of manufacturing alcoholic beverages was still in effect in 1930. Speakeasies were common in the cities. Speakeasies were hidden places in which alcohol was sold. People flouted the prohibition laws. Gangsters and organized crime became prominent as they sold alcohol to a willing public.

The communist party gained more membership as many despaired of the capitalist system. The birthrate dropped to historically low levels. Many women were abandoned by spouses who had no resources and left their families. Women had to work, and become head of households.
President Hoover believed that the government should stay out of the business life of the country. He watched helpless as the depression deepened and he was being vilified and blamed for it. In 1932, New York governor Franklin Roosevelt won his first of 4 presidential elections. He initiated many new government programs. Some helped, others didn’t but people were relieved that something was being done. It wasn’t until the onset of WWII that the economy recovered completely.

Pre-War and World War II
Before December 1941, many Americans didn’t want to be involved with a foreign war. The US Army was very unprepared for war. Army maneuvers were done with sticks because rifles weren’t available. World War I caused many to question the wisdom of being involved in an European war in which the direct interests of the US was not involved. Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in September 1939. Great Britain sought to reason with Hitler and made a truce with Germany, which Hitler ignored. He continued to invade Poland and moved troops through Eastern Europe. France was conquered in 1940. Great Britain declared war on Germany and was bombed relentlessly. Roosevelt sought to support great Britain but America First and other organizations were violently opposed to any support. On a separate front, the US had an embargo on products from Japan. Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sunday December 7, 1941. War was declared on Japan, and Germany declared war on the US as an ally of Japan. After Pearl Harbor, war fever ran high. Recruitment went up and all resources went to the war effort.

Resources: fashions and fads of the 30s Life in America in the 1940s A pbs series dealing with Depression to War Depression in the Northwest Depression years in the Southwest  depression in Ohio and nearby areas depression in Arkansas deals with depression era to WWII and civil rights movement in Georgia stories from the depression era-Minnesota depression exhibit-New York Jim Crow laws blacks in depression era,  WWII website dealing wiht 1930s America-politics, class, race and religion


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