Struggle of African Americans During 1929-1941
Ross Murphy: 10365571 US War and Depression Essay Struggle of African American People 1929-1941 African Americans have always struggled throughout history, and th1930s was no exception. During this period they were victims of hate crimes, racism, discrimination, segregation, and lynching, had unfair employment and had very bad access to education and other resources. The great depression was felt throughout the entire country but was obvious that African Americans were getting the worse end of the stick.
Roosevelt’s new deal helped many people in America also, yet again it seemed that African Americans were often left behind, or more their needs were dealt with second to whites. Although Roosevelt had little interest in race relations and civil rights, his wife Eleanor realised the crisis black people faced in America, and did much to aid them throughout the 30s. African Americans were still affected by the Jim Crow laws, which saw the segregated in many areas such as schools, public transport, and drinking fountains, in restaurants and even in the military.
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Even in times of war America could not bring itself together to fight alongside people who were fellow countrymen, regardless of the colour of their skin to fight what they all believed to be a greater evil. So yes, the 1930s were a turbulent time for race relations in America, despite the decline of organisations like the Ku Klux Klan, which received renewed support during the 10s and 20s in America tensions were still high in America between blacks and whites.
There were many ups and downs for blacks in the 1930s, although they had backing from many parties such as the NAACP and from people like Eleanor Roosevelt and even from many New Deal programs that gave them a voice in the arts, with federal music, theatre and writers projects, They still suffered large amounts of discrimination from many other angles.
The WPA (Works Projects Administration) tried to encourage jobs for blacks in the south, as many of the problems they faced were with employment, companies simply did not want to hire black people to work for them, regardless of their background or skill in a particular line of work, and even WPA leader Harry Hopkins, worked with NAACP leaders to try and prevent discrimination, but ven with this support blacks were still discriminated against, they were paid less wages than white people, and when it came down to who got the job, black people were always chose second over white in most cases, even if they were more qualified. An example of this unfair unemployment received by blacks in America can be seen in a statement made by the Urban League (Who tried to promote a better understanding of trade union principles and to affiliate organised labour) and the AFL (American Federation of Labour) on racial discrimination. They claimed that the city of St.
Lewis bars the door of organised labour to black people, and the building of trade unions showed complete opposition to the employment of blacks and simply refuse to admit them, many bricklaying , painting and carpeting unions refuse to permit local blacks to be set up and also refused to recognise union cards of blacks from other cities as well, this was not only blatant discrimination, but companies were shutting out many perfectly qualified and skilled workers. The hardships these people faced were horrific for no other reason than the colour of their skin.
In another case given in the same speech a skilled electrician working in a city hospital, was forced to accept membership into a coal passers union in order to keep his job, despite being a skilled electrician for a dozen years, and having only done electricians work in the hospital. And in another case an Engineer named William Hodges was accepted to a job, but the union would not accept him, despite taking and cashing his 110$ administration fee, forcing him to take legal action against the company.
There was constant discrimination against blacks and unfair unemployment was just one of the many things that separated them from the rest of America, they were seen and treated like second class citizens. The general feel of the Urban League was that some progress had been made towards a proper democracy in unions but felt that the progress was too slow, and that black workers were so far from organised labour that decades will be required to bring them back to the appropriate position to which they stood and urged the AFL to accept the challenge of black labour by doing something to eradicate what they saw as a “cancerous situation”.
Another serious issue for African Americans in the 1930’s was their lack of opportunity in regards to getting a proper education. In a journal written by Eleanor Roosevelt on the national conference on the education of negroes, she mentions how there were many black people in America who had not had the opportunities they should in relation to education, she felt that a lack of education, for not only blacks but whites too lowing the standard of living for all. “Wherever the standard of education is low, the standard of living is low”. This was a very valid point that put the discrimination faced against black people into perspective.
Eleanor was correct when comparing that many were worried about the economy and about things like employment, education and consumerism yet openly discriminated against people who in many ways could help aid in these issues. If black people had no access to education, then they in turn would not have access to jobs and therefore do not have anything in which to contribute to the failing economy. It was not just white people who need to be educated and employed but if people were willing to reduce discrimination and segregation, and moves towards a more integrated society, who is to say America would have had so many problems to tackle.
Eleanor Roosevelt thought like this as well, she believed that the African American race had many gifts to bring to the country in many other ways including the arts, expressing there was not only more need for black people to be educated, but they also expressed talent in things like music and theatre which again would only aid the economy and that she felt were gained through good education if people were more accepting of it.
Robert C Weaver in his journal on “The New Deal and the Negro” talks about how more than half of the employed African Americans were concentrated in domestic service and farming, the most casual and unstable in the modern economic world and in both these professions, not much money is needed for the necessary equipment, therefore when there is a decline in trade these employees are quite expendable and therefore results in them losing their jobs with no real financial loss on the part of their employers.
This again shows the position of African Americans within the economy and the struggles they had to go through to get anywhere on the social ladder. They were the victims of racism, discrimination and segregation, they were paid less than white people, they were given jobs that they were over qualified for and could be fired from at any moment, even if this was unfair they would not of had much help to resolve problems, as African Americans had less of a voice as a result as seen in these documents they were forced to ork in less than adequate conditions for less money than the average man, the suffered segregation in the form of being pushed into all black housing estates with again, less than adequate living conditions. These people struggle not only in the 1930’s but for much of the years leading up to, and after this decade.
The depression had severe effects upon the south of America , the rural “negro-poor” before the period of trade decline was made even more in need as tenants found it next to impossible to gain a contract for a crop, and many black farm owners lost their land. This removal of black tenants began before the depression but grew hugely throughout Lynching was another huge and horrific problem faced by black people in America not leading up to and during the 1930’s.
There was a growing divide between the north and south (Roosevelt openly appealed to blacks to join his party, somewhat alienating the south) but in the wake of a double lynching in Mississippi , one of more than a hundred that took place during the 30’s a fight took place in the House of Representatives over an anti lynching bill, the bill was passed despite much opposition, but former Roosevelt supporters carries out a 6 week long filibuster which resulted in the withdrawal of the bill, this bitter fight was a blatant example of the horrendous racism and regional conflict that was still clearly seen in America during this time.
Lynching was probably one of the most serious problems African Americans struggled with this horrible act saw the deaths of many African Americans throughout the 30’s for no reason other than racial hate. There were many, many struggles faced by African Americans in America during the years 1929-1941 and despite having support from many people and areas, it still did little to slow an ever growing problem of racism and economic discrimination that caused increasing hardships for them to get anywhere in life.
From the educational discrimination they received, which openly prevented them from bettering themselves as people and aiding the economy. This educational discrimination was only one phase of the black’s economic, political and social status, but it is perhaps the most vital standard by which their participation in American life is measured.
Employment and their involvement in trade unions (or lack of involvement) was another serious struggle they were forced to try overcome. They were refused positions they were more than qualified for, they were ripped off and abused, pushed out of the social circle and forced into a life of domestic work and discrimination, with little to no voice for oppressing this.
They lived in a country which treated them as second class citizens, and did everything it could to lessen them as people, economically and socially, they were given less wages than others, they were forced to work lesser jobs they were not qualified for, rather than the ones they had built up with years of training and were rejected entry to trade unions in an attempt to discourage them, and the place white people on some sort of pedestal above blacks.
They underwent horrific violent hate crimes at the hands of many southerners with hundreds of lynching’s taking place throughout many areas of the south. These were no more than violent racist hate crimes that struck fear into the hearts and minds of every black person in America. For many times it seems they were on their own, made struggle and fight for everything they had or wished to have. African Americans experienced many hardships throughout the 1930’s and “struggle” is a word that only begins to describe it.
Bibliography Levi Fox “Issues of race in the 1930s” (American Studies Program, 2012) Reginald A. Johnson “The Urban League and A. F of L: A Statement on Racial Discrimination” (National Urban League, August 1935).  Eleanor Roosevelt “The National Conference on the Education of Negroes” – (Journal of Negro Education, May 11, 1934) Robert C. Weaver “The New Deal and the Negro: A Look at the Facts” – Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (National Urban League, July 1935)
Gould Beech “Schools for a Minority” Survey Graphic (Survey Associates Inc, October 1939) ———————–  Levi Fox “Issues of race in the 1930s” (American Studies Program, 2012) Found at http://xroads. virginia. edu/~ug02/newyorker/race. html , Accessed on November 6 , 2012  Fox “Race in the 1930’s” (American Studies Program)  Reginald A. Johnson “The Urban League and A. F of L: A Statement on Racial Discrimination” (National Urban League, August 1935).  Johnson “Racial Discrimination” (August , 1935) 5] Eleanor Roosevelt “The National Conference on the Education of Negroes” – (Journal of Negro Education , May 11, 1934)  Roosevelt “National Conference” (May 1934)  Robert C. Weaver “The New Deal and the Negro: A Look at the Facts” – Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (National Urban League, July 1935)  Weaver “A Look at the Facts” (July 1935)  Fox “Race in the 1930’s” (American Studies Program)  Gould Beech “Schools for a Minority” Survey Graphic (Survey Associates Inc, October 1939)