Impact of the Great Depression and the Current Recession on African Americans Essay

Impact of the great depression and the current recession on African Americans With millions unemployed, thousands on the verge of suicide and many resorting to crime for sustenance, surely the effects of the recessions were more pronounced on African Americans. The recession (a) of the early 1930’s started in late 1929 (October) and lasted till 1941. It had such huge repercussions on the daily life in general and on the field of Economics in particular that it came to be known as The Great Depression later on.

The current recession started in 2007 and matches the great depression in magnanimity. The recessions adversely affected people from all walks of life and ethnic orientations, making the survival of the masses, African Americans in particular, extremely difficult if not impossible. Even though both recessions were similar in terms of high unemployment, the reasons for this high unemployment in Africans Americans and the way government dealt with their hardships in both eras differed substantially. The high unemployment in both the recessions stemmed from different reasons.

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The main reasons for high unemployment in the African Americans during the great depression were the Mechanization in rural areas and white dominance in urban areas. Much of rural African Americans worked as sharecroppers(b), however as the farm owners started relying increasingly on mechanization to cut cost and increase productivity during the depression a huge number of negroes found themselves unemployed. (“African Americans”). One single automated cotton picker could replace as much as fifty workers (“Lessons: USA Great Depression (1929-1945)”).

With declining opportunities in rural areas an increasing no. of Negroes turned to cities for sustenance, which only exacerbated the already bleak scenario. The whites dominated the job market in the cities and they were willing go to all extremes to maintain this dominance. They staged protests against this Negro influx in cities, chanting harsh slogans, such as “No Jobs for Niggers until Every White Man Has a Job”, and even resorting to violence at times. Hence, these two factors pushed a huge number of Negroes in to unemployment (“African Americans”). On the other hand, the main reasons for unemployment in the current recession consisted of white dominance, with a different connotation attached to it then the aforementioned, and the increasing number of Hispanic Americans. Although a 3 times higher unemployment rate then whites’ in cities like buffalo and Detroit signals towards clear discrimination, this is more of an implicit discrimination as the whites never came in a significant direct conflict with the negroes during the current recession(“The Impacts of the Recession”).

So, while the notion of violence to maintain dominance waned in whites, their dominance nevertheless in job market still existed during the current depression. The increased number of Hispanic Americans was another factor responsible for their high unemployment. Since the end of great depression, the number of Hispanics has increased considerably which naturally hints towards a greater competition for all American workers, especially African American. In the current depression, this development proved detrimental for the Negroes as now they had to compete more rigorously with the Hispanics as well.

And though the average unemployment rates for both are roughly equal, 16. 3% for Negroes and 17. 7% (CPS) for Hispanics, it was observed in some towns that Hispanics had considerably low unemployment rate. For instance, in Milwaukee this rate for African Americans was 3 times as high as male Hispanics’ as observed in his study by Levine (qtd in “The Impacts of the Recession”). Hence, the similar trend in the unemployment in both the recessions stemmed from different factors.

The way government approached and subsequently dealt with their hardships in both recessions also differed substantially. During the great depression government failed to live up to the expectations of African Americans on various fronts with the insensitivity of the presidents towards Negroes and the inefficiencies in the relief plans standing out. President Hoover who enjoyed the support of the majority of Negroes did not do much to relieve these saddened and destitute rather his policies revolved around bailing out big firms.

Things got worse when Roosevelt assumed office as after being elected he not only changed his initial stance and opposed the anti-lynching ban(c) but also paid little heed to racial injustice. Roosevelt introduced a number of relief programs termed as New Deals push the economy out of recession. However, since they were planned generally rather than specifically for African Americans, they failed miserably to prevent racial discrimination and hence rendering the whole point of relief useless. Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) was one such example of discrimination.

When the AAA paid farmers to withdraw cotton lands from production, county officials barred African Americans from representation and deprived them of government checks. By and large the 1930’s government was pretty much indifferent to the sufferings of African Americans (“African Americans”). In contrast, the Government during current recession has been very pro active in this regard. Especially as the current president is an African American, the government is naturally more responsive towards them and this was reiterated by specific relief plans for Negroes unlike previously.

Obama assumed the office with the idea of change and since day one he has tried to make good on this idea. After closely working on a plan to provide relief for the African Americans, the Obama administration finally introduced the “The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010: A Win for African-American Families. ” According to this act around 2. 2 million African American families will benefit from tax cuts, around 1. million African Americans will benefit from unemployment insurance and a good many number of African Americans will benefit from Job Creation. ( Job Creation Act of 2010, 1-2) Besides this Recovery act introduced before this kept some 1. 4 million Negroes above poverty. (Sherman,1). Hence, sincere effort was seen at the part of the government during the current recession. In short, though both recessions had similar trends for African Americans the reasons for these trends and Governments response towards African Americans differed.


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