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FDR’s Essentials for Unemployment Relief: 1933

One of the obstacles to creating unemployment relief programs as part of the President’s New Deal was the widespread feeling that in this land of opportunity, any individual could find some way to maintain himself and his dependents without relief if only he would exert the necessary initiative and effort. Therefore, it was with only the greatest reluctance that the American public in general and legislative bodies in particular came gradually to accept that fact that as a result of the Great Depression there were actually too few jobs to go around.Continue Reading »

Triborough Bridge Dedication – 1936

On October 25, 1929, Mayor Jimmy Walker broke ground on the Triborough Bridge. This date later proved significant, as it was just one day after the “Black Thursday” that helped trigger the Great Depression. The initial $5.4 million allocated by New York City for construction of the new bridge – most of which went to condemnation awards and counsel fees – had already been spent before the Ward’s Island piers had been built….With its coffers depleted by the ensuing Depression, the city abandoned work on the bridge early in 1930.

In 1933, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Moses as the chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority. President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted the new authority a $37 million loan, making the bridge the first project in New York City to earn approval from the new Federal-level Public Works Administration (PWA). Seeking a clear break from the Tammany Hall corruption of the past, LaGuardia said the following to the press: “We are going to build a bridge instead of patronage. We are going to pile up stone and steel instead of expenses. We are going to build a bridge of steel, and spell steel “s-t-e-e-l” instead of “s-t-e-a-l.” The people of the City of New York are going to pay for that bridge, and they are going to pay for it in tolls after its completion.”Continue Reading »

Civilian Conservation Corps

The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the most successful New Deal programs of the Great Depression. It existed for fewer than 10 years, but left a legacy of strong, handsome roads, bridges, and buildings throughout the United States. Continue Reading »

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

On May 24, 1937, President Roosevelt sent the bill to Congress with a message that America should be able to give “all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” He continued: “A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling worker’s wages or stretching workers’ hours.” Continue Reading »

Coughlin, Father Charles

Father Coughlin’s influence on Depression-era America was enormous. In the early 1930s, Coughlin was, arguably, one of the most influential men in America. Millions of Americans listened to his weekly radio broadcast. At the height of his popularity, one-third of the nation was tuned into his weekly broadcasts. Continue Reading »

Committee on Economic Security – 1934

The President’s Committee on Economic Security (CES) was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising “recommendations concerning proposals which in its judgment will promote greater economic security.” In a message to Congress two weeks earlier President Roosevelt spelled-out what he expected the CES to achieve. “. . . I am looking for a sound means which I can recommend to provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life–especially those which relate to unemployment and old age.”Continue Reading »

The New Deal: Part II

The public’s acceptance of New Deal programs and services initiated by President Roosevelt in his first term was to a large extent a result of the pain and fear caused by the Great Depression. How bad the conditions were is worth remembering, since this is a means of gauging the enormous pressure for significant changes in government policy. One of the worst thing about the 1929 depression was its length of time. Men who had been sturdy and self-respecting workers can take unemployment without flinching for a few weeks, a few months, even if they have to see their families suffer; but it is quite different after a year, two years, three years. Among the miserable creatures curled up on park benches, selling apples on the street corner or standing in dreary lines before soup kitchens in 1932 were white men who had been jobless since the end of 1929. This traumatic experience marked millions of people for the rest of their lives, and made them security conscious.Continue Reading »

Perkins, Frances: The Roosevelt Years

The Labor department that Perkins found called into play all her research and political skills. It was corrupt and inefficient and hadn’t accomplished much. Many were removed and some eventually went to jail. No detail was too small. In her shabby offices cockroaches were found. This was because black employees were not allowed to use the department cafeteria and brought their lunches to work. She and her secretary cleaned the office and soon ordered the cafeteria to be integrated.Continue Reading »

The Negro and Relief: Part II

About the only source to which the Negro can look for real aid today is the United States government. Experience has shown that local authorities cannot be trusted to administer equably government funds in many sections of the country so far as Negroes are concerned. I am satisfied that the national administration is eminently fair and wants to reach out and see the benefits of its recovery program extended to every citizen, but this ideal is neutralized in many local communities. On the other hand, one does not need to argue for complete centralized control by the federal government, but rather for a degree of protection for a group which experience has proved suffers at the hands of local administrators.Continue Reading »

The Negro and Relief – Part I

This practice of the displacement of Negro labor by white labor began even before the depression. The Negro felt its effect as early as 1927. From the very beginning it has been stimulated by outside forces. For instance, an organization called the Blue Shirts was set up in Jacksonville, Florida, about 1926 for the express purpose of replacing Negroes in employment with white men. An organization called the Black Shirts was formed at Atlanta, Georgia, late in 1927 for the same purpose. The Black Shirts, whose regalia consisted chiefly of black shirts and black neckties, published a daily newspaper. They frequently held night parades in which were carried such signs as “Employ white man and let ‘Niggers’ go”; “Thousands of white families are starving to death-what is the reason?”; and “Send ‘Niggers’ back to the farms.”Continue Reading »

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