Hoovers Relief Efforts
In the early years of the Great Depression, before 1932, President Herbert Hoover was faced with a terrible problem. The entire country, and to a large degree the entire world, was in the midst of one of the worst economic recessions in current history. All around the country, people were out of work, down on their luck, and starving. One in every six American males was unemployed, and the future outlook was not much better.
In 1930, drought struck Arkansas, worsening the already terrible conditions under which the poor sharecroppers and landowners lived in. The Depression had already been had on these farmers, who had seen the market value of their produce dwindle significantly. As conditions worsened, it soon became common for entire families to go without food for several days. President Hoover, aware of the terrible conditions, decided to turn the relief effort over to the Red Cross because he believed in private charities, and in self-help, rather than giving public money directly to individuals. This particular policy proved to be ineffective, and had terrible results. The Red Cross asked the landowners to look over their sharecroppers and determine which ones were in need of subsistence. This would have worked fine, except that the landowners were afraid that free food would cause the sharecroppers to not work as hard, and reported false figures. The other problem was that the Red Cross quickly ran out of resources when faced with the sheer numbers of people in need of help. Things finally came to a head when 300 Arkansans marched into the town of England, Arkansas, and demanded that food be released to them. The local Red Cross leader met them outside, and told them that if they would wait a half hour he would get them what they needed. He called his bosses in Little Rock, explained the situation to them, and was granted permission to release the food to them. Thus, what could have been a major tragedy was avoided, and the farmers and their families were fed. The national media, however, portrayed it as a mob of starving angry farmers robbing and looting the town of England. The negative portrayal of the scene led an already worn and frightened public to worry about unrest and revolution.
The conditions were hardly better in the large cities. In Detroit, were the entire economy centered on the auto manufacturing facilities of the Ford Motor Company, conditions were especially bad. Mayor Murphy tried to give as many people welfare as he could, but soon the number of people needing help forced the program, and the city with it, into desperate financial straights, but because of Hoovers policies,...