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Learn About the Great Depression

The stock market crash of October 1929 brought the economic prosperity of the 1920s to a symbolic end. For the next ten years, the United States was mired in a deep economic depression. By 1933, unemployment had soared to 25 percent, up from 3.2 percent in 1929. Industrial production declined by 50 percent, international trade plunged 30 percent, and investment fell 98 percent.

The Great Depression transformed the American political and economic landscape. It produced a major political realignment, creating a coalition of big-city ethnics, African Americans, and Southern Democrats committed, to varying degrees, to interventionist government. It strengthened the federal presence in American life, spawning such innovations as national old-age pensions, unemployment compensation,, aid to dependent children, public housing, federally-subsidized school lunches, insured bank depositions, the minimum wage, and stock market regulations.

It fundamentally altered labor relations, producing a revived labor movement and a national labor policy protective of collective bargaining. It transformed the farm economy by introducing federal price supports. Above all, it led Americans to view the federal government as an agency of action and reform and the ultimate protector of public well-being.

The Great Depression was steeper and more protracted in the United States than in other industrialized countries. The unemployment rate rose higher and remained higher longer than in any other western country. As it deepened, the Depression had far-reaching political consequences.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, 1933
To learn more

Handouts and fact sheets:

Great Depression and the New Deal

Recommended lesson plan:

The New Deal Lesson Plans


Test your knowledge about the Great Depression

Recommended books:

David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.
The Pulitzer-prize winning history of the Great Depression and World War II.

Recommended film:

I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
The classic study of a World War I veteran unjustly imprisoned on a Georgia chain gang.
Hollywood and the Great Depression

Recommended Website:

New Deal Network
Containing 5000 photographs, 900 primary source documents, and many special features, the New Deal Network is sponsored by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College of Columbia University.


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