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The Great Depression is considered to be the one of the most challenging episodes in the modern history of the United States. It originates from the world economic crisis of 1929, which affected the United States the most. In 1933, when the crisis peaked, the Democratic Party candidate Roosevelt was elected to the presidency. He launched a program of emergency policies known as the “New Deal”, fundamental changes over the first hundred days of his term, when Congress introduced many laws covering the socio-economic and political aspects of the country. These two crucial experiences, however, not only impacted the political and economic sphere, but additionally produced a noticeable effect on some population groups, particularly women, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.
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Effects on women
The Great Depression had an extremely diverse influence on women and men. Women were primarily working in the service sector, and this employment tended to continue until the 1930s. Moreover, in many instances, employers reduced wage payments to women employees or even, as in the example of teachers, did not pay their workers on schedule. Nevertheless, in many households throughout the Great Depression, women were the sole providers.
Laws in effect from 1932 to 1937 successively forbade the hiring of more than one person per family in the federal civil service. Besides, the New Deal program, established in 1933, had an official anti-women’s recruitment policy. Many employment policies under the New Deal limited women to the typical role of housewives.
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Influence on African Americans
The Great Depression exacerbated the already adverse economic condition of African Americans. Employers in the majority of cases favored white men and then white women rather than black or Hispanic women. Therefore, the unemployment level among them was two to three times higher than among whites. As a consequence of centuries of racial prejudice and misogynism in the labor force, most African-American women have been excluded by new legislation passed to provide worker protection.
The economic struggles of African Americans triggered significant political developments among blacks. Starting in 1929, the Urban League of St. Louis initiated a national movement for “jobs for Negroes” by boycotting department stores that served primarily black clients but recruited exclusively white staff. However, the Roosevelt Administration’s “New Deal” initiatives increased black support of Roosevelt’s Democratic Party. African-Americans profited significantly from the “New Deal”, while discrimination by local authorities was widespread, and low-cost public accommodation was granted to black families.
Impact on the Hispanics
Hispanics were the population group that was most affected by the Great Depression. The majority of Hispanics in the 1910s and 1920s were working class when they came to the United States. Their deplorable social status, along with widespread racial discrimination, placed Latinos at a severe disadvantage in the 1930s. In several states, Latinos were the first to be fired from their jobs because employers found it essential to prefer English-speaking employees.
Eventually, Latinos had need of assistance from state and federal governments. They engaged in a number of federal help initiatives under the New Deal. Certain programs made it possible to preserve jobs for Latino employees, such as large-scale construction projects that involved an already skilled Latino workforce. As with other ethnic groups, though, the New Deal produced a controversial mark on Latinos. Despite federal government attempts to allow immigrants to receive welfare support, some state administrations persisted in denying them.
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Effects on Native Americans
Being poor, undereducated, and in a fragile state of health – this was the reality of life for the majority of Native Americans in the 1920s. In 1928, the federal government requested research on Native American policies. The subsequent Meriam’s report detailed the appalling living standards of indigenous peoples. Native Americans were denied even elementary health care services. Furthermore, there was no economic or legitimate basis to defend the rights of Native Americans. Practically half of them lost their lands because of corrupt people who cheated the law to profit from the lands provided to the Indians.
As a consequence, Meriam’s report became the primary blueprint for the New Indian Policy. It established a policy of renewing the sustainability of Native American governments through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The IRA renounced the old land allotment system and encouraged tribes to enact their own constitutions. This resulted in the right of Native Americans to preserve separate tribal societies. Gradually, indigenous peoples began to emerge from the ruins caused by the endowment policy, and health and education programs changed.
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The Great Depression and the New Deal were a test for the state and particularly for women, racial and ethnic minorities. For this reason, Roosevelt’s New Deal maintains a long-term heritage and is regarded as a controversial success in tackling the US’s economic challenges on a macroeconomic scale. It enhanced the lives of many African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. Nevertheless, the economic advancement of minorities and countless working-class women was hindered by discrimination, which the Roosevelt government rarely dealt with but often encouraged.