North vs. South in the Great Depression
The Great Depression is one of the most misunderstood events in not only American history but also Great Britain, France, Germany, and many other industrialized nations. It also has had important consequences and was an extremely devastating event in America. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world. When the New York Stock Exchange crashed in October 1929, the United States dropped sharply into a major depression. The world was in wide demand for agricultural goods during World War I, but they had rapidly decreased after the war and rural America experienced a severe depression throughout most of the 1920's and even on into the 1930's. One of the major losses for agriculture was due to banks foreclosing farm mortgages because the farmers could no longer pay their mortgages. By the early 1930's, thousands of American farmers were out of businesses. Major businesses, however, had to increase profits through most of the decade although wages remained low and workers were unable to buy the goods they had helped produce. The financial and banking systems were very unregulated and a number of banks had failed during the 1920's. Not only did the Great Depression affect the United States as a whole, there were many different effects on both the North and South.
At first the impact was small. As Ayers states, “For most Americans, there was no single decisive moment when they knew that the economy was in trouble,” (733). For instance, a husband might find that there are fewer hours to go around at the factory, or his wages are being cut a little short. Soon family’s started to realize that they had a minor crisis on their hands and started either saving or started sending their children out to find jobs to help bring in extra income. Although there were many new people trying to find jobs, they soon realized that there were no jobs to be found, and savings started to run out. This loss in job stability soon caused farms and homes to go back on the market or were soon foreclosed. Families then slipped into the ranks of poorness and unemployed (Ayers 733). Not only was the middle class and higher family’s affected, the family’s already at the bottom now had to over come even greater struggles.
When the Great Depression began, there was no federal relief for the unemployed or assistance for families facing starvation and homelessness. Some states operated relief programs but had to then cut them back due to declining tax revenues. Charitable and religious organizations provided relief in many urban areas; however, in many of these organizations operating in the North as well as the South, there were a lot of discrimination and racism, which excluded African Americas from their charitable acts. In communities where relief work was offered through state agencies, African Americans were given less monthly aid than white applicants. Even before the Great Depression African American urban laborers always had little job security throughout the South and the North, and when the Depression hit, they were the first to be fired, and one of the last to be hired. As one African American stated, “The Negro was born in depression, it only became official when it hit the white man,” (Ayers 733). It even went as far as to have white men protesting that African American’s loose their jobs, just so they could take them over to support their families. Many people were so desperate during these times that they did not stop and think that the same people they were trying to put out of jobs not only had families themselves, but under any other circumstances would be the only ones who would allow themselves to do the job. Not only were African Americans’ affected by the loss of jobs to the white man, so were Native Americans’. Many Native American reservations faced the same struggles that the rest of the nation did, nonetheless, the Hoover administration accomplished little to improve Native American life.
Not only were African and Native Americans’ told to relinquish their jobs to the white men, so were women. Some companies even went as far as to fire all of their women in the company who were married, and the school district in the South dismissed women teachers who were married. The number of women, however, did not decline as fast as the number of men due to the fact that men did not want the jobs that the women were doing. The women usually had domestic or clerical tasks that seemed tedious and almost pointless and beneath the men to do.
Industrial workers, who had ventured north during the Great Migration, like the agricultural workers, joined the ranks of the unemployed early in the Depression. A large percentage of the American middle class, mainly located in the Northern states, was able to survive the depression.