Depression left an indelible mark on the lives of the young. It
inflicted a heavy psychological toll that would persist through
the remainder of these children’s lives. It would influence
their attitudes toward the family and especially their attitude
toward economic security.
and loss visited all sections of the country. One-third of the
Harvard class of 1911 confessed that they were hard up, on relief,
or dependent on relatives. Doctors and lawyers saw their incomes
fall 40 percent. But no groups suffered more from the depression
than African Americans and Mexican Americans. A year after the
stock market crash, 70 percent of Charleston's black population
was unemployed and 75 percent of Memphis's. In Macon County, Alabama,
home of Booker T. Washington's famous Tuskegee Institute, most
black families lived in homes without wooden floors or windows
or sewage disposal and subsisted on salt pork, hominy grits, corn
bread, and molasses. Income averaged less than a dollar a day.
were also distressed in the North. In Chicago, 70 percent of all
black families earned less than a $1,000 a year, far below the
poverty line. In Chicago and other large northern cities, most
African Americans lived in "kitchenettes." Six-room
apartments, previously rented for $50 a month, were divided into
six kitchenettes renting for $32 dollars a month, assuring landlords
of a windfall of an extra $142 a month. Buildings that previously
held 60 families now contained 300.
hit Mexican American families especially hard. Mexican Americans
faced serious opposition from organized labor, which resented
competition from Mexican workers as unemployment rose. Bowing
to union pressure, federal, state and local authorities "repatriated"
more than 400,000 people of Mexican descent to prevent them from
applying for relief. Since this group included many United States
citizens, the deportations constituted a gross violation of civil
crisis of the 1930s overwhelmed private charities and local governments.
In south Texas, the Salvation Army provided a penny per person
each day. In Philadelphia, private and public charities distributed
$1 million a month in poor relief. But this provided families
with only $1.50 a week for groceries. In 1932, total public and
private relief expenditures amounted to $317 million--$26 for
each of the nation's 12 1/2 million jobless.