Great Depression Minorities
What it Meant to be an American During the Depression Era
Union membership more than tripled with the new deal. This can be at least in part attributed to the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, and the Wagner Act of 1935. The Committee of Industrial Organizations (later renamed the Congress of Industrial Organizations) was formed during this era, to assist unskilled workers in negotiating wages and working conditions. Although government worked to protect collective bargaining rights, there were frequent disputes between employees and their employers. One example of this is the sit-down strike that occurred at a General Motors plan in Flint, Michigan. Workers forced GM to recognize the United Auto Workers union by refusing to work until their demands were met.
During the depression era, incomes were low, and many women went to work so that they had the money to feed and clothe their children. This caused conflict because some men perceived this as women taking the jobs of men regardless of the fact that men and women often sought after different jobs. Even with the new deal and Eleanor Roosevelt promoting equal rights for women, women faced many troubles.
Dust Bowl Farmers
In the Great Plains of Oklahoma, there was a dust bowl that occurred, a severe drought that ruined crops in the early 1930's. The farmers, or as they were known as, "Okies", decided to migrate from Oklahoma to California in search for jobs, whether it be farming or in factories. The government created the soil conservation service which engaged in crop rotating, contour plowing, and planting trees to prevent soil erosion. In 1938, the book, The Grapes of Wrath was written describing these events.
African Americans still faced discrimination at this time. African American unemployment was above the national average, and blacks were often last to be hired and first to be fired. African Americans were often forced off of their land in the south, and new deal reforms often had a smaller impact on African American than non-African Americans. Racial tensions were also increasingly present during this era.
As the commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, John Collier pushed to get Indians involved in new deal programs such as the WPA. He was also involved with conservation projects with regards to reservations.
Like other minorities, Mexicans faced discrimination in the depression era. In addition many Mexicans had agricultural jobs and were heavily impacted by the poor weather conditions at the time. Because of these things along with the fact that new deal programs disproportionately effected minorities forced many Mexicans to Move back to Mexico.