The Great Depression

  • What was 'The Great Depression'?"
"The Great Depression" was a period in the United States which created a lot of hardships and tragedy that swept the country. Many people became unemployed and remained out of work throughout "The Great Depression". "The Great Depression" started in 1929 and finished in the early 1940's; it went for an extremely long time. The start of this downfall was the crash of the Stock Market. This is deemed as the start of "The Great Depression". With the stock market crashing, a lot of people went into panic mode and tried selling all their stocks but no one was buying. The cycle had begun and the Stock Market led to bankruptcy.
  • What had happened previously?
Many things had happened before “The Great Depression” on many levels. The biggest and most major influence to the depression was World War 1. Over the conflict that went for 4 years a lot of money and time would have been put into the war and many countries had close to no money left because of this. This was the exact lead-up to "The Great Depression". People felt like the end of the war would be the end of their problems therefore they felt a sense of being unbeatable and people were being very lenient in their business and were lending money on a regular basis and a fair bit was being given out as a result to this. In the end, these procedures crumbled and this was the lead-up to "The Great Depression".
  • Why was the South affected greatly by it?
When "The Great Depression" came along, the South was deeply affected as the civil war had just concluded and they were the poorest region in the whole of America during the 'depression'. The 'depression wasn't the factor that made people in the South go poor, people in the South were already poor; even before the stock market crash. Therefore, adding "The Great Depression" of 1929 to the equation meant the South would be in such a bad position, that some families couldn't even feed their families on a day-to-day basis.

As the 'depression' was occurring, things were going downhill for the South; and quick. An amazing statistic was recorded in one year of the 'depression'. Out of 5,280 farms that were open in a county in North Carolina, 3,500 had to foreclose because of the devastating effects the 'depression' had. Policies were introduced and even the president of American recognized that the South was in definite need of 'repair'.

The South

  • Where were the people from?
    The people in the South (Southern United States) were made up of people from the following regions: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Southern United States was deemed the South for it's different circumstances. Some of these circumstances included the crop patterns as well as having a growing system that was longer then usual.People in the South were and still are so religious and why this has come about is difficult to question. Statistics were collected and the southern part of the United States was the most religious from the whole of the U.S.

  • The History of Slavery in the USA:
    As you would have realised by now, everything has got some significance to do with the South, well so does the history of slavery in the USA. Most slaves lived in the South! Some significant statistics that have been collected showed that in 1680 there was less then a tenth of slaves in the South but as time went on this grew to a third of the population being slaves in 1790. So even before "The Great Depression" even started, the South was significantly poor with time. What an impact "The Great Depression" must have had on the poor people of the South!
    The statistics continue with some staggering proof of how bad slavery really was in the U.S.A. but most especially the South! We can sympathise with fictional characters in Maycomb on how bad it really was and considering Atticus' family was seen as the richest (in the town's point of view) they are putting their status to good use and showing them that if you are well off, you still contribute to your town no matter what.

    The following table was collected from the Historical Statistics of the U.S. in 1970 by showing to us the population of the South as well as how many of those people were slaves.
Free Non-White
This table shows us the growing number of slaves just in the South alone. Did you know that 42% of all slaves in the U.S. lived in Virginia?
  • What impact did it have on the attitudes of people in Alabama in the 1930’s?
    People from Alabama around this time did not have much of a sympathetic bone in their body. If you were a slave and you were African-American, you were probably treated the worst and had to deal with several racial taunts and prejudice's (one of the themes of "To Kill A Mockingbird"). Many whites had untrue perceptions of African-American's and this had an effect to how they treated them. The "Jim Crow" laws definitely did not help for a better society and they only worsened people's treatment of African-American. As seen in "To Kill A Mockingbird" people were judging Tom Robinson simply because he was a black man and helping Mayella Ewell sounded like such a bizarre thing to do; that his intentions must have been worse therefore he did commit the crime. In conclusion, Alabama was one of the most judging states in the United States and books like "To Kill A Mockingbird" have definitely outlined the extremities in prose fiction while also challenging the system.
  • What would it have been like to be African-American in 1930’s Alabama?
    Referring to the table above, you can see how many of those people were slaves. You can be sure that a lot of those slaves were indeed African-American's as they weren't treated rightly and there wasn't this sense of multiculturalism that we have in a lot of countries today. There was definitely a lot of racism against African-American people and you would not have liked to be one in 1930's Alabama as shown in "To Kill A Mockingbird" with the case of Tom Robinson. In the yes of the citizens of Maycomb, he was guilty before charged just by being African-American. It was a bad time to be convicted with something like that for Tom Robinson, but as shown in the novel, it resulted to a lot of realisations on behalf of the citizens of Maycomb as well as Scout and Jem.

  • What is Jim Crow?
    Jim Crow is the name given to describe a few laws that are associated with segregation during the period of 1877 to mid-1960's. These laws were against blacks and pretty much took away all the rights they were granted previously. This was a terrible period for them. The term "Jim Crow" derived from a song and soon evolved into being a word to describe blacks with. The word wasn't as harsh as the term nigger though. Here are a few banners which portray the "Jim Crow" experience:
    No Dogs, Negros, Mexicans
    No Dogs, Negros, Mexicans
    Seated in Rear
    Seated in Rear

    restroom sign
    restroom sign
    drinking fountains
    drinking fountains

    There were set rules and etiquette procedures blacks had to follow, just to name a few:
    - At an intersection, white motorists were allowed first at all times.
    - Public displays of affection were against the law for blacks as it offended white people.

  • The Role Of Women:
    The Role Of Women in the South is rather different then what it portrayed in movies. Although they weren't treated as badly, they still had a lot of things to deal with. If they were from a family with a higher status they were expected to throw parties and take care of entertainment. They did not have to take care of their children or tend to the house as that is what the servant was there for.

    The women in the middle class were a bit like women today, they had more jobs to do but also had some freedom in organising things. These women usually were very educated as well. The role of the lower class females was not much different the the lower class men. They all did the same jobs regardless of their gender and also worked as hard as each other. They were not allowed to negogiate. A lot of the lower class people worked as servants for the upper class people.

  • Entertainment:
    Entertainment was a large part of the South as explained previously. Women especially loved organising dances, parties and lunches. Any form of entertainment is where people met and conversed. Although entertainment was a big part of the culture of the South at those times, slaves weren't really allowed there therefore continuing this cycle for slaves for many and many generations with an increasing number of slaves as shown in the tables above.

  • Ku Klux Klan (KKK):
    The Ku Klux Klan in the 1930's was a big deal for Alabama. After the civil war is when they made their first appearance in Alabama. They wanted control over African-Americans of that time and bonded together to make sure that happened. All of these people believed in white supremacy which we all know is completely wrong in a society like ours where we respect everyone and promote multiculturalism. The KKK went further then "Jim Crow" and promoted those policies but went about their day by believing they have overall control and superiority to African-Americans. A disturbing fact to note is that during the 1920's there was a recorded amount of 150,000+ members of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama alone.

    Although referenced in "To Kill A Mockingbird", the Ku Klux Klan is never a main part of the plot but the text can be analysed to show some policies and theories that "Jim Crow" and the Ku Klux Klan had. You could say they worked hand in hand.

  • Conclusion:
    "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a classic for many reasons. Analysing the historical context of the book shows us an in-depth view of how life was like and what people had to go through. Maybe this is what Harper Lee wanted to subtly portray to us, but as soon as Mayella screamed, Tom Robinson was a dead man; in a society like today Tom Robinson would have been given a chance. It is book's like Harper Lee's which open our eyes to the greater good of the world and can eternally change the way we think; like Jem and Scout.

By: Maria Banica :)

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