The Great Depression was the worst economic disaster in the history of the United States. It occurred when the stock-market crashed in October 1929. By the time of the Depression many Americans worked in the urban based industrial society and were totally depend on weekly wages for the necessities of life. Hunting, fishing and farming could help feed a hungry family in rural areas, but the urban factory was at the mercy of the economy.
For African-Americans the situation was even more critical. “Last hired and first fired” was the attitude of many White employers against Black workers. This was in part due to the fact that Whites took many of the jobs that were once held by Blacks. Faced with losing their livelihoods Whites gladly accepted the dirty, dangerous and underpaid jobs that Blacks once endured. The results were devastating to African-American communities, with Black unemployment rates in some cites at seventy percent3 .
Moreover, there were not any federal programs in place to cushion the initial shock of the Great Depression. There was, for example, no federal insurance on bank deposits and the prosperous 1920’s had given the nation a false sense of security. Speculation by banks, financiers, and lending institutions had been rampant and bank failures were widespread. Depositors were fortunate if they could recoup ten cents on the dollar.
In addition, African-Americans had been voting Republican every since they gained franchisement after the Civil War. But as the Depression deepened, and the American people looked toward the federal government for help, it became clear that the Republican President Herbert Hoover would do nothing. Hoover saw the Depression as a...