The ap instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 26 of American

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Chapter 26:
The New Deal

The AP instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 26 of American

History: A Survey focus especially, but not exclusively, on the following themes developed by the AP U.S. History Development Committee: American Identity, Culture, Demographic Changes, Economic Transformations, Politics and Citizenship, and Reform. This chapter, as well as the primary documents selected below, follow the content guidelines suggested for the twentieth topic in the AP Topic Outline The Great Depression and the New Deal.

Top-Ten Analytical Journal.

Defining the chapter terms in their journals will help students better understand:

  • The series of New Deal emergency measures designed to restore confidence and enacted during the first 100 days.

  • The New Deal programs for raising farm prices, promoting industrial recovery, stimulating regional planning, and reforming the financial system.

  • The federal relief programs and Social Security.

  • The political pressures from both the left and the right that caused Franklin Roosevelt to move in new directions in 1935.

  • The changes in organized labor during the New Deal era.

  • The effects of the Court-packing scheme, and of the recession of 1937 and 1938 on Roosevelt and the New Deal.

  • The impact of the New Deal on minorities and women.

  • The lasting significance of the New Deal on the American economy and political system.

Each of the terms below contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the New Deal and its overall effects upon America and its citizens. As your students define these terms, encourage them to demonstrate why each person, event, concept, or issue is important to a thorough understanding of this chapter.

“Fireside chats”

Emergency Banking Act

Twenty-First Amendment

Agricultural Adjustment Act

Agricultural subsidies

National Industrial Recovery Act

National Recovery Administration

Minimum wage

Public Works Administration

Tennessee Valley Authority

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Securities and Exchange Commission

Government “dole”

Work relief

Civil Works Administration

Civilian Conservation Corps

Farm Management Administration

American Liberty League

Dr. Francis E. Townsend

Father Charles E. Coughlin

Huey Long

Second New Deal

National Labor Relations Board

Industrial unions

Congress of Industrial Organizations

United Auto Workers

Sit-down strike

Memorial Day Massacre

Social Security Act

Unemployment insurance

Works Progress Administration

Election of 1936

Party realignment

Court- packing plan

Recession of 1937

Broker state

Black cabinet

Indian Reorganization Act

Francis Perkins

Eleanor Roosevelt

Getting students started on their journals. Remind students that they must analyze and synthesize their understanding of these terms in two ways:

  • by creating “Top-Ten” lists of their own within their journals at the end of each chapter; and

  • by justifying in their journal why their terms are essential to an understanding of the New Deal.

Journal entry example. Following is an example of how students might describe “Securities and Exchange Commission” and its importance to an overall understanding of “The New Deal.”
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Prior to the 1930s, the federal government had never interfered with the financial world. But the Depression caused many Americans to lose faith in the financial establishment and to clamor for the creation of a federal agency to monitor financiers. The SEC, therefore, was designed to police the stock market.
Era 7: “Consumerism, Conservatism, and a New Deal before and during the Great Depression” Assignment. Because the students have completed the seventh historical era in their book by reading Chapters 2426, it is time to come together as a class to synthesize individual student lists into the seventh class “Top-Ten” list. The night before this discussion takes place, assign the following for homework:
Journal Assignment. Examine the 10 terms for each chapter that you have previously identified as necessary to a complete understanding for Chapters 2426 in the textbook. Then, narrow down your list to a total of ten terms that best describe the era. Be prepared to justify your choices in class tomorrow.
During class, ask students to analyze and debate the importance of terms they have selected and challenge them to create a composite “Top Ten” for the era. Ask a student to put these words on a large poster where it will remain throughout the academic year. Then have the students complete the following homework assignment in their journals:

  • Taken as a whole, what does the class “Top-Ten” list tell you about the political, social, economic, and religious issues of this era of American history?

  • Are there any terms that you think must be added to the “Top-Ten” list that the class as a whole did not include? If so, explain why you believe they should be added.

  • What clues do they think the “Top-Ten” list for this era might provide for an understanding of the next era of U.S. History?

Free-Response Questions.

  1. Why was President Roosevelt’s plan for national recovery called a “New Deal” for Americans? In your opinion, did they offer Americans a new deal?

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: FDR’s plan for national recovery was a “new deal” for the American people because it created the foundations of the federal welfare system  a system that did not exist before the 1930s and that continues to define our contemporary political world.

  • The New Deal expanded the powers of the federal government into the lives of all Americans by regulating new areas of the economy, proving a major force in the agricultural economy, presiding over the birth of the modern labor movement, supervising and funding major public works projects, creating a powerful coalition in the Democratic Party that dominated American politics for most of the next thirty years, and producing a new liberal political ideology that shaped the post-war reform efforts for the next generation of Americans.

  • The New Deal also produced the “broker state.” New Deal actions increased the power and strength of new interest groups that allowed them to compete in the national marketplace. The federal government became a powerful broker, or mediator, in the continuous competition between the traditional powerbrokers of American corporate capitalism and the newly empowered interest groups. By the end of the 1930s, the federal government mediated competition between the traditional forces of power, as well as with a powerful labor movement, an organized agricultural movement, and newly aroused consumers.

  • Possible conclusion: FDR’s policies expanded the federal government’s role in the lives of ordinary Americans through the creation of the federal welfare system and the broker state. New Dealers, in turn, supported the need for the federal government to be involved in national economic planning. In this respect, New Deal policies were a new deal for many Americans. These policies, however, did not radically alter the decision making process. Instead, it simply added new actors to the negotiating process. Those who won in the process were those who were able to accumulate the most power and support  white labor unions, organized farmers, the unemployed, and the elderly. But for many sectors of American society, the New Deal had little to offer  African Americans, women, Indians, Mexican Americans.

2. Analyze the ways in which the following three New Deal measures attempted to create a more stable economy and more equitable society: Agricultural Adjustment Act, Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration. How successful were each in achieving their goals? (Adapted from the 1993 A.P. United States History free-response question.)

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: Each of the three federal acts attempted to create both a more stable economy and a more equitable society.

  • Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The AAA sought to reduce crop production in order to end agricultural surpluses that caused decreasing farm prices. Thus, producers of seven basic commodities decided on production limits for their crops and in turn, the government told individual farmers how much they should produce and then paid farmers subsidies for leaving some of their land idle. Farm prices would be subsidized up to the point of parity. Ultimately, the AAA as an agency failed  not only did the U.S. Supreme Court find it unconstitutional on the grounds that the federal government had no constitutional authority to require farmers to limit production, but because the law as it was written favored larger farmers over smaller farmers. So, while it was designed to stabilize the economy and equalize society, it ultimately did neither. It did, however, lend credence to further legislation that did permit the government to pay farmers to reduce production in other contexts.

  • Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC sought to provide employment to millions of unemployed young men living in urban America. The CCC created work camps in rural and wilderness settings where young men planted trees, built reservoirs, developed parks, and improved agricultural irrigation. The CCC was successful in both the short- and long-term in providing jobs to young men. However, in the 1930s, it did nothing to equalize society. Not only did it exclude women from such work, but the vast majority of CCC programs were restricted to whites. A few camps were reserved specifically for blacks, Mexicans, and Indians.

  • Works Progress Administration (WPA). The goal of the WPA was to create a system of work relief for the unemployed by putting people to work building and renovating public buildings and constructing airports, roads, and bridges; giving writers and artists a chance to continue their careers; providing a forum for concerts and plays by keeping musicians, actors, and directors employed; providing work and scholarship assistance to high-school and college students; and sponsoring public housing projects. While the WPA kept an average of 2.1 million people employed and added millions of dollars to the American economy, it did little to improve the inequities of society. For women, government aid came in the form of cash assistance, not work relief.

  • Possible conclusion: Taken as a whole, these three actions met with some success in terms of stabilizing the economy. The AAA led to legislation that continued to bring about parity; the CCC provided many jobs to young men; and the WPA put millions of people into the marketplace. However, they had less success in creating a more equitable society. All three efforts discriminated against women, as well as persons of color. In short, the lives of white men were improved by these actions, but society was not equalized for other groups.

3. Assess the success and failures of those who opposed the New Deal.

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: New Deal legislation and New Dealers were not unopposed in the 1930s. Opposition came from at least three areas: corporate Americans, members of the far left political spectrum, and three highly vocal dissident politicians.

  • Opponents from corporate America. Some of the wealthiest Americans, especially northern industrialists, opposed the New Deal legislation on the basis that the federal government had no right to interfere with free enterprise. The American Liberty League, led by the DuPont family, was created to arouse public opposition to FDR and his policies. Their efforts failed because they were unable to broaden their constituency beyond their small group of wealthy northern industrialists.

  • Opponents from the far left of the political spectrum. The Communist Party, Socialist Party, and other far left radical groups opposed New Deal legislation because it did not go far enough to change the capitalistic structure of American society that they felt was responsible for the Great Depression. They, too, failed to attract widespread support from the American public.

  • Dissident political opponents. Three men did galvanize national opposition to the New Deal: Dr. Francis E. Townsend, Father Charles E. Coughlin, and Huey Long. Dr. Townsend, a California physician, rose to prominence with his call for federal pensions for the elderly. The Townsend Plan proposed to give all Americans over the age of 60 a monthly government pension of $200 if they retired and spent the money in full each month. Father Coughlin advocated changes in the banking and currency systems through a series of monetary reforms, issuing greenbacks, remonetizing silver, and nationalizing the banking system. Senator Long had gained widespread support from his constituents while Governor of Louisiana. His well-known attacks on the banks, oil companies, utility companies, and the well-established and powerful political oligarchy gained him many supporters. As senator, he claimed the government could end the Depression by passing a tax system that would confiscate the surplus riches of the wealthiest Americans and redistribute them to the rest of the population. To that end, he established the national Share-Our-Wealth Society. While none of these three men was able to get his legislative agenda passed, all gained huge popularity among various segments of American society.

  • Possible conclusion: New Deal opponents on both the right and the left were unable to attract mass public support largely because they represented viewpoints that only benefited a small sector of American society. While the national following gained by Townsend, Coughlin, and Long was both impressive and somewhat threatening to New Dealers, they were not able to garner enough support for their radical legislative agendas. The New Deal had its opponents, but none was unable to dismantle its legislative agenda.

Historians, Historical Detection, and DBQs
The following DBQ and its supportive primary documents will help students gain a better understanding of the New Deal and whether or not it was an effective answer to the Great Depression. Remind your students that when scoring the AP exams, the readers will expect to see a coherent essay that includes two required components: key pieces of evidence from all or most of the documents and a well-organized narrative drawing on knowledge from textbook readings and classroom discussion.

DBQ: Many historians disagree about whether or not the New Deal was an effective answer to the Depression. Using your knowledge of the era and the documents below, assess the effectiveness of the New Deal programs in meeting the needs of average Americans during the Depression.


  1. Work Pays America! Poster, 1930s.

2. Excepts from Radio Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1936. (PSI document. Campaign Address at Madison Square Garden, New York City, October 31, 1936; Speeches of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1945; Collection FDR-PPF: Papers as President, President's Personal File, 1933-1945; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; National Archives and Records Administration.)
“… What was our hope in 1932? Above all other things the American people wanted peace. They wanted peace of mind instead of gnawing fear. First, they sought escape from the personal terror which had stalked them for three years. They wanted the peace that comes from security in their homes: safety for their savings, permanence in their jobs, a fair profit from their enterprise. Next, they wanted peace in the community, the peace that springs from the ability to meet the needs of community life . . . They sought escape from disintegration and bankruptcy in local and state affairs. They also sought peace within the Nation: protection of their currency, fairer wages, the ending of long hours of toil, the abolition of child labor, the elimination of wild-cat speculation . . . I submit to you a record of peace . . . .
Tonight I call the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today. Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance  men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms. Written on it are the names of those who despaired . . . Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure. Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans . . . who looked on these things four years ago and said, ‘This can be changed. We will change it.’
We still lead that army in 1936. They stood with us then because in 1932 they believed. They stand with us today because in 1936 they know. And with them stand millions of new recruits who have come to know. Their hopes have become our record. We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle. For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government . . . For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up . . .
Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless  that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief  to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene. You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”
3. Excerpt from Frank Byrd WPA Interview with Street Peddlars in New York City, 1938. (Library of Congress Website at )

It was snowing and, shortly after noontime, the snow changed to sleet and beat a tattoo against the rocks and board shacks that had been carelessly thrown together on the west bank of the Harlem. It was windy too and the cold blasts that came in from the river sent the men shivering for cover behind their shacks where some of them had built huge bonfires to-ward off the icy chills that swept down from the hills above . . These men earn their living by cruising the streets long before daylight, collecting old automobile parts, pasteboard, paper, rags, rubber, magazines, brass, iron, steal, old clothes or anything they can find that is saleable as junk. . Of the fifty odd colonists, many are ex-carpenters, painters, brick-masons, auto-mechanics, upholsterers, plumbers and even an artist or two. . .

‘Boys,’ I ventured, ‘how is it that none of you ever got on Home Relief? You can get a little grub out of it, at least, and that would take a little of the load off you, wouldn't it?’ At this they all rose up in unanimous protest. "Lis'en," one of them said, "befo' I'd take Home Relief I'd go out in duh street an' hit same bastard oveh de haid an' take myse'f some'n'. . . We is all able-bodied mens an' can take it. We can make our own livin's.’ This, apparently, was the attitude of every man there. . . They even had their own unemployment insurance fund that provided an income for any member of the group who was ill and unable to work. Each week the men give a small part of their earnings toward this common fund and automatically agree to allow a certain amount to any temporarily incapacitated member. In addition to that, they divide among themselves their ill brother's work and provide a day and night attendant near his shack if his illness is at all serious.”
4. Lyrics, “I’d Rather Not Be on Relief,” Lester Hunter, 1938. (PSI document. Lester Hunter. "I'd Rather Not Be on Relief." Shafter FSA Camp, CA, 1938. Lyrics from recorded audio. Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941 at the Library of Congress. Call Number: AFC 1985/001.)
We go around all dressed in rags

While the rest of the world goes neat,

And we have to be satisfied

With half enough to eat.

We have to live in leantos,

Or else we live in a tent,

For when we buy our bread and beans

There’s nothing left for rent.

I’d rather not be on the rolls of relief

Or work on the W.P.A.,

We’d rather work for the farmer

If the farmer could raise the pay;

Then the farmer could plant more cotton

And he’d get more money for spuds,

Instead of wearing patches,

We’d dress up in new duds.

From the east and west and north and south

Like a swarm of bees we come;

The migratory workers

Are worse off then a bum.

We go to Mr. Farmer

And ask him what he’ll pay;

He says, “You gypsy workers

Can work on a buck a day.”

We don’t ask for luxuries

Or even a feather bed,

But we are bound to raise the dickens

While our families are underfed.

Now the winter is on us

And the cotton picking is done,

What are we going to live on

While waiting for spuds to come?”

5. Excerpt from Work Project Administration Interview with Charles Fusco. (Library of Congress Website at )
“… You know sometimes I wonder what way we are drifting  some of the laws that was passed in the last few years were very good for the people and I guess you know what happened. You take the N.R.A. I think that was very good  it gave everybody a chance except those who are misers and are never satisfied if they make 100 dollars a week. This other law the Social Security I believe is the best. The only fault I find is that a man has to reach the age of 65 before he can collect. Well how many do? [?] They tell you nowadays that a person lives longer - well they used to before this depression but… today you worry your … head off on how to meet both ends and that makes your life much shorter. You see what I mean that this government wants to do something good for the people and does but … they put strings to it. Tell me how many reach the age of 65? Very few. Why … don't they give a person a break and say at 56 years old you should retire from work and enjoy life instead of waiting until he is almost dead they give him a few dollars a month. I think the whole shooting match is wrong. And unless we get the crooks and chislers out of Washington we'll remain the same.”
6. Excerpt from Work Project Administration Interview with Dr. Santos. (Library of Congress at
As to the New Deal, I believe that it has been a failure as it has protected the trusts more than the American people. Today, the poor are poorer, and the trusts are richer. Another reason: this is a county that is controlled by the trusts. When one stands on the street, and closes his eyes for a moment, and then opens them and looks; everything, absolutely all that one sees is made by the trusts. The automobile that passes by, the street car, the trucks, everything that one wears: shoes, clothes, ets. When one enters a restaurant, he sees the plates, the tables, the spoons, all is made by the trusts. 95% of what one eats is controlled by the trusts. The trusts for more than 200 years have been controlling all the industries, and killing the small business men. We have reached a state in which the trusts dominate all, as they are the owners of the money, or nearly all the money that there is in the United States. . .
In my particular opinion, all is not lost. A few men are necessary, who would have sufficient energy and intelligence to make social laws: as for example, all machines which displace ten men, should give the salary to those ten men. For example, one machine can, manipulated by the number of individuals which it displaces, taking turns by hour. The Capitalist will have the right to a certain equitable percentage, and there cannot be a capitalist who can have as capital more than one million dollars. All that passes this amount the Federal government will confiscate it for the betterment of the community. The utility companies should be the property of the communities. All poor men who passes 50 years should be pensioned of he government, with a modest pension, but at the same time sufficient for the necessities of each one.”
7. Excerpt from WPA Interview with Myron Buxton, 1939. (Library of Congress Website at )
"One reason people here don't like WPA is because they don't understand it's not all bums and drunks and aliens! Nobody ever explains to them that they'd never have had the new High School they're so … proud of if it hadn't been for WPA. They don't stop to figure that new brick sidewalks wouldn't be there, the shade trees wouldn't be all dressed up to look at along High Street and all around town, if it weren't for WPA projects. To most in this town, and I guess it's not much different in this, than any other New England place, - WPA's just a racket, we set up to give a bunch of loafers and drunks steady pay to indulge in their vices! They don't stop to consider that on WPA are men and women who have traveled places and seen things, been educated and found their jobs folded up and nothing to replace them with. . . You know, for a long time I didn't dare tell mother I was even on the WPA ! Then, of course, when the checks came to the house in the mail, the jig was up! She felt terribly about it all, but what could we do? If I do have to hit them up for a grocery order, - and God knows I don't know what else I can do, - then I sure hope she don't find out about it. I'm only hoping that the guys that plan this Relief Act may see how foolish it is to hope to drive us into jobs don't exist, - and maybe keep us from having to go through all that damned charity business again. Hell, I feel like I earned my money, working for it! I can hold my head up, for I'm not loafing, nor trying to cheat in any way. When that's taken away, good-night! One thing I will say, - to you! When the city hasn't got funds to finance Public Welfare, - and they start in squawking to the state, - and then when the state finds the burden's more than they can swing, - you'll see how long it takes the old birds in Washington to realize it's government help, or else - it's only that it's too bad to make all the guys go through what they've got to, first, in order to convince Congress we're not just throwing a lot of heffer-dust about ourselves, right?"
8. Excerpt from Charles C. Todd, “Trampling Out the Vintage,” 1939. (Library of Congress Website at )
“Imperial Valley has … taken one New Deal agency to its bosom. The Migratory Labor Camps, set up under the Farm Security Administration in 1937, have won a real victory over the stupidity and wrath that made the Valley a sink-hole of farm labor exploitation since the days of the first irrigating ditch. It wasn't an easy victory. The camps were bitterly fought and hated from the beginning: the wonder is that a single tent survived. . .
There are some eleven Migratory Labor Camps scattered through California, and their stories are pretty much the same. In the little town of Brawley, for example, over three hundred dust-bowl families were huddled together in a dry riverbed a few miles from town. . . . Despite the unbelievable misery in that riverbed, the good citizens of Imperial did nothing. A few half-humorously suggested that the ‘Okies’ be lined up and shot: others sent half-hearted protests to the Health Department.
Then, one day in 1937, representatives of the Farm Security Administration walked into Brawley. Concluding an agreement for the purchase of a small plot of land at the edge of town, they drew up plans for tent platforms, an office building, a nursery and a medical unit, three sanitary units with showerbaths and toilets, a tool shed, a garage - in fact all that goes into the making of a rough but livable community. . . .
As plans for the government camp were being aired, the first to get upset was the editor of The Brawley News. The whole thing came straight out of Russia  no doubt about it! Next day an editorial informed the citizens of Brawley that the hammer and sickle would soon be hoisted at the very rim of the town. . . . Next to cry havoc were the rural associations and more particularly, the proprietress of an adjacent ‘tourist camp.’ ‘Business ruined!’ ‘Get up a petition!’ . . . ‘Send telegrams! . . .’ One day, while men were still working on the tent platforms, a delegation of irate Parent-Teachers arrived at the camp. The question the ladies put was: ‘Are you going to make it possible for more of these hobo brats to go to school with our children?’. . .”

Possible evidence:

  • Voices of those who thought the New Deal was effective in fighting the ravages of the Depression. The most enthusiastic of the voices was that of the President. In FDR’s 1936 radio message, he praises his administration’s efforts over the last four years and states that one of the reasons for New Deal accomplishments was the faith of ordinary Americans who believed in him and his policies. These included people “who never had a chance” but nonetheless believed “This can be changed. We will change it.” With these supporters stood “millions of new recruits” who recognized that while the former government refused to offer relief to Americans, FDR’s administration had “rolled up its sleeves” and would continue doing so. This voice of support indicates that while the Depression was not yet over, the fight had begun and it was a “war” that could be won. Myron Buxton, in his 1939 interview with the WPA, demonstrates his commitment to the Works Progress Administration and his belief that it had contributed much to Depression-Era America. He laments the fact that many Americans do not understand the worth and effectiveness of the WPA and other New Deal programs and hopes that they will eventually realize that “it’s government help” that will pull America out of the Depression.

  • Evidence of particularly effective New Deal programs. While not all of the New Deal’s “alphabet soup” of programs were effective, many did offer significant relief. Three examples of those that did offer relief during the Depression  and that are still in operation in the 21st Century  are the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Social Security Act (SSA), and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The purpose of the TVA was to deal with numerous issues in the Tennessee River Valley such as flooding, economic and environmental damage due to erosion, reforestation, and the problem of supplying electricity to the surrounding areas. The federally-operated TVA competed with privately owned companies for the control of electricity in the area. The agency was one of the first federal agencies committed to the complete development of a region. The SSA was designed to deal with the prolonged economic downturn of the Great Depression that had exhausted traditional sources of support (families, churches, local governments) for the elderly and the handicapped. Although those who viewed government intervention and support of citizens as a grave threat to personal liberty and self-reliance opposed it, the law passed both houses of Congress. The retirement benefits and unemployment insurance represented a landmark expansion of Federal aid to individuals. The CCC provided employment to millions of unemployed young men living in urban America. The CCC created work camps in rural and wilderness settings where young men planted trees, built reservoirs, developed parks, and improved agricultural irrigation.

  • Voices of those who did not feel that the federal government’s work relief programs were helping with the Depression. This view is especially apparent in Lester Hunt’s song. The real point of the song, captured by its title, is the unwillingness of many Americans to go on government relief. Hunt believes that most agricultural workers would rather have jobs on farms and be treated with the respect they deserve, rather than receive work relief from the government. A similar theme is found in the WPA interview with street peddlers in New York City. These urban workers were impoverished but determined to eke out some sort of a living. Government relief was unthinkable to these men, one of whom explained that he would rather hit someone over the head and rob him than receive welfare. Charles C. Todd describes the failure of the Farm Security Administration’s Migrant Labor Camp program to deal with the existing system of “farm labor exploitation” in California. For Todd, it was not enough for federal FSA representatives to make arrangements to build a “livable community.” Something also had to be done about those who “bitterly fought and hated” the camps from the very beginning. These opponents were clearly driven by socio-economic prejudices against the migratory “Okies.” Yet the New Deal policies did nothing to address the true problems of migratory workers living in Depression-era California.

  • Other voices that believed New Deal programs did not meet the needs of ordinary citizens during the Depression. Charles Fusco has an interesting take on New Deal programs. He believes that some of the legislation was good  especially the Social Security Act. He sees that in this act, the government did something good for the people but then “they put strings to it.” Until “the crooks and chislers” are thrown out of Washington, Fusco says, the New Deal can’t be truly effective. Dr. Santos is clear that the New Deal “has been a failure as it has protected the trusts more than the American people.” He sees New Deal policies as continuing the 200 year history during which the trusts “have been controlling all the industries, and killing the small business men.” For Santos, the New Deal did not go far enough to help Americans out of the Depression. This sentiment is echoed by revisionist historians, beginning with William Leuchtenburg, who suggest the New Deal was only a “halfway revolution” that improved conditions for some previously disadvantaged groups like farmers and factory workers, but did virtually nothing for other groups  like migrant farmers, African Americans, sharecroppers, and the urban poor. Ellis Hawley took this belief one step further by arguing that the New Deal simply enhanced the position of the private entrepreneurs  the “trusts” that Dr. Santos describes.

Creative Extensions.
1. Before reading Chapter 26, give your students a homework assignment in which they examine the efforts of George W. Bush’s administration to revise the Social Security System. Questions they should address and be prepared to discuss in class include: What is social security? What is unemployment insurance? How does social security and unemployment insurance benefit the average American? What changes were proposed by the Bush administration? Do you support such changes? Why or why not? Initiate a class discussion the following day about the early 21st century debate on Social Security.
2. After reading Chapter 26, revisit the Social Security discussion. Have your students read excerpts from or listen to former Secretary of Labor, Francis Perkin’s “The Roots of Social Security” speech given in 1962. (Available at Then, ask the following questions: Do you agree with Perkins’ statement, “Nothing else would have bumped the American people into a social security system except something so shocking, so terrifying, as that depression”? Why or why not? Do you agree with her powerful concluding statement, “One thing I know: Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States?” Why or why not?
3. Stage a classroom debate on any one of the following:
Resolved: Social Security provides insurance, not welfare.

Resolved: Agricultural subsidies should be eliminated.

Resolved: The New Deal programs made no serious effort to challenge local customs and racial prejudice.

Resolved: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was more conservative than liberal.

Resolved: The Social Security System of the 21st Century needs to be revised.

Resolved: The only thing Americans “have to fear is fear itself.”
4. Give students a homework assignment in which they learn as much as possible about the history of the minimum wage and how and why Congress enacted the first minimum wage during the New Deal. Ask them to address the following questions and be prepared to discuss them in class the next day: What was the original national minimum wage? What was the rationale for creating a national minimum wage? What is the current federal minimum wage? the current minimum wage in their state? What are the 21st century arguments for increasing the national minimum wage? for keeping the national minimum wage at its current level? Which argument do they support and why?
5. Have students investigate what types of projects were undertaken in their city, town, or county during the New Deal. Have the students visit local archive repositories to find photos of various New Deal efforts; interview people about their memories and experiences during the New Deal; and conduct research in local newspapers about changes that occurred in the 1930s. Then, have the students write a brief book about how the New Deal shaped their community. When it is completed, arrange for a group of students to read and share their book with a group of elementary students.
6. Organize and stage a press conference to which three prominent men have been invited to present their opposition to the New Deal: Dr. Francis E. Townsend, Dr. Charles E. Coughlin, and Louisiana Senator Huey Long. Ask three students with dramatic talents to assume the roles of these men at the press conference. Assign five students to be members of the New Deal administration who will be prepared to respond to their three critics. Assign another student to moderate the press conference. The remainder of the students will be members of the press corps and must be prepared to pose questions to the men after their introductory speeches. Videotape the press conference and play it back for the students. Ask them to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the press conference. Who do they think “won” and “lost” and why?
7. Assign a three-day, in-class project during which all the students will work in groups to learn more about the following federal agencies created during the New Deal: National Recovery Administration; Civil Works Administration; Civilian Conservation Corps; Farm Management Administration; Works Progress Administration.
Each group must address the following questions about their agency: What legislation was passed to empower the agency? What were the goals of the agency? What difficulties did the agency face when trying to administer it programs? What were the successes and failures of the agency? What long-term consequences has this agency had upon the American economy? Then, have the groups come together on the third day and share their findings with the whole class. End the assignment with a discussion about which of the agencies had the most short-term and long-term success. Why were some a success while others failed? In the 21st century, which of these historical agencies have the most influence on their contemporary lives?

  1. Lead a classroom discussion about the following statement from Dr. Brinkley about the “Second New Deal”: “Symbolically at least, the president was now willing to attack corporate interests openly.” (p. 700) What were some of these symbolic endeavors? Do you agree that they were merely symbolic? Why or why not? How could they have been real efforts to make change and might such efforts have made a real difference to the economy? Why wasn’t Roosevelt willing to make these symbolic gestures during the “First” New Deal?

  1. Give students a homework assignment in which they examine any one of the many strikes that occurred in the 1930s. In the course of answering the following questions, they must consult at least two primary resources: What led to the strike? What was the union’s role in the strike? How did management respond to the strike? How did the federal, state, and/or local governments help management during the strike? What were the effects of the strike on the workers and on the union? What were the ultimate successes and failures of the strike? How did reading the primary documents help students better understand the issues involved in the strike? On the day the assignment is due, ask students to volunteer their findings on the strike. Then, ask students if they felt any of the strikes were effective. Do they believe strikes can be effective today? How and why?

  1. Invite students to watch any of the following movies at home either with their family or with a group of friends from class: Huey Long (PBS documentary by Ken Burns); All the King’s Men (1947); Sunrise at Campobello (1960); Sounder (1976); Eleanor Roosevelt Story (1965); Eleanor and Franklin: The Early Years and the White House (1976).

  • What does this production tell you about the New Deal?

  • Do you think this film was a realistic portrayal of the historical event? Why or why not? Be specific.

  • In your opinion, is this movie of any real use to understanding this period in American history? Be specific about how and why  or why not.

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