Issues of Race in the 1930's

The 1930's were a turbulent time for race relations in America. Despite the decline of such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan (which had enjoyed renewed support during the 1910's and 1920's) racism was as strong as ever in the Southern states. Furthermore, as this picture alluedes to, the increased presence of Black Americans in Northern cities (where many had migrated during WWII and especially during the Depression) resulted in increased tension between the races there as well. This image of a drunken African-American passed out in the middle of the city reflects the apprehension which many rich white New Yorkers felt at the the presence of so many blacks in what they considered to be their city.

Many New Deal programs gave black Americans opportunities they had often lacked in the past, while also helping to bring their daily struggles to light for Northerners. Such federal programs as The Federal Music Project, Federal Theatre Project, and Federal Writers project enabled black artists to find word during the depression, often times creating art or stories which portrayed the historic and present situation of blacks in the South. Projects chronicling the lives of former slaves were also begun under the auspices of these programs. At the same time competition for WPA (Works Project Administration) jobs in the South during the thirties also brought to light the persisitence of inequality even in the government. Since the WPA required that eligibile employes not have refused any private sector jobs at the "prevailing wage" for such jobs, African-Americans (who were paid less on average then whites in the South) might be refused WPA jobs which whites were eligible for. Such discrimination often extended to Hispanic-Americans in the Southwest as well. Despite such difficulties, WPA head Harry Hopkins worked with NAACP leaders to prevent discrimination whenever possible resulting in general support for the programs (and the government) by the black community.

Black Americans also received increased visibility during this decade for less auspicious reasons, resulting in bitter political conflict within the Democratic Party. While the South had been solidly Democratic since the Civil War, the Roosevelt administration actively appealed to African-Americans to join their party, thus alienating many Southerners. The growing divide between Northern and Southern Democrats over the issue of race came to a head in April 1937, when a bitter fight over an anti-lynching bill took place in the House of Representatives. In the wake of a gruesome double lynching in Mississippi (only one of more than a hundred which had taken place since 1930) The House passed the anti-lynching resolution, despite the opposition of all but one Southern member. Declaring that the South had been "deserted by the Democrats of the North" former Roosevelt supporters in the Senate carried out a six week long filibuster which resulted in the withdrawel of the bill in February 1938. This bitter political fight was indicative of the racism and regional conflict still firmly instrenched in America in the 1930s.


November 19,1932


August 10, 1940


October 13, 1934

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