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History of America: The Great Depression

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    Word Count: 682Imagine for a moment, waking up one day to findyourself on adirty floor, a pile of rags, or maybe even the street.

    You look down atyourself to find you’re wearing the same clothes youwore yesterday,except they are completely filthy and have lots ofholes in places like the knees and elbows. You haveno access to amirror to show you what you look like so you go totouch you hair withyour hand and find it to be a pile of grease and dirtthat obviouslyhasn’t been washed in days, maybe even weeks. You get up and start to head for work, or school,only to realize youhave no place to go. The pain of hunger eats away atyou, but you justignore it knowing that there is nothing for you to eatand you have nomoney to buy any food. You have no job, no money, nofamily, no hope. Welcome to .

    The 1920’s was a time of great prosperity in thelives of mostAmericans and our natural human ignorance made usthink it would stay thatway forever. We had just come out of the Great Warand business wasbooming, along with agriculture and the stock m arket.

    The outlook forthe future was great, but people failed to understandthat economies can’tbe on the upswing forever, it has to come downsometime. All of the signsof a depression were there; the farmers were producingtoo much, theuneven distr ibution of income, easy credit/hugedebts, imbalance offoreign trade; people just didn’t notice them. Notuntil October 29,1929–BLACK TUESDAY–anyway, when the bottom of thestock market fell out,taking millions of American lives with it. Even though any didn’t admitit, they knew what was on the way. People who hadbeen buying stocks onmargin (10% down) suddenly found themselves pennilessand in bigger debtthan they could imagine. America went into a panic,pulling money out ofbanks in a frenz y causing many to close their doors. President Hoover tried hard to make the times betterfor theunemployed first by setting aside almost $800 millionfor public workslike the now Hoover Dam. Conditions, however, failedto improve. Hisother policies, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) and the HomeLoan Bank Act, also didn’t make much difference. Theelection of 1932made it clear that the American people were unhappywith Hoover. FranklinDelano Roosevelt won the election on the Democraticticket by a landslide. His promis e of “a new deal” gave Americans hope forwhat he could do forthem. Two days after his inauguration he ordered a’bank holiday’ for allthe banks in the country to close. When they reopened,people felt moresafe putting their money in banks with the go vernmentbacking them up. FDR’s “New Deal” became what started the nation’s turnaround. With suchprograms as the CCC (employing single males from theages of 17-28 to docommunity labor like road building), the FERA (used$250 million to aidthe unemp loyed, elderly, and sick), the AAA (paidfarmers to grow less),the NIRA (set up price controls), the WPA (creating asmany job aspossible), and others, Franklin Roosevelt became oneof the mostsuccessful leader this country has ever had. Throughout h is Presidency,he almost single-handedly changed the fate of America.

    He turned thiscountry around so we could be a great nation again. If you were to ask someone who lived through theGreat Depression,as it came to be called, what it was like, theiranswer would probably notbe a positive one. But even through immense tragedy,good still found away to shine through. The Depression g ave us thechance to redefine whatAmerica stood for. The government now had the powerto help people inneed, and in return people had more trust in thegovernment because theyknew it would support them. The position ofminorities improved somewhatbe cause the New Deal relief measures were essentiallycolor blind, andgave non-whites a small but significant chance. Womenalso made their wayinto the workforce during and after the Depression.

    America, as I see it, is a country of greatness. Outof a GreatWar, into a Great Depression, and onto a greatrecovery. My only hope isthat we continue this tradition in the future and notlet the mistakes ourancestors made hurt us again.

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