MPS/MOEC Teaching American History Grant Lesson Plan Template
Teacher’s Name: Ruben Cano, Angela Nichols, Nathan Ter Beest
District: Omaha Public School______________ Date Submitted: May 24, 2006
Lesson Title: _What should be done about the Great Depression?______________
NE Standards Overview
Students will examine several documents dealing with the causes of the
Great Depression and will have to develop their own plan for helping the
nation deal with the crisis. The students will then write a “fireside” chat to
Age Level: 9-12 Established Goals (Learning Objectives)
1. Students will learn about the causes and effects of the Great
2. Students will use critical thinking skills to analyze historical
documents and develop an answer to a historical problem.
Duration: 3-5 days Understandings (Background Knowledge)
Students should be familiar with the roaring twenties and the pro-business
policies of the 1920’s.
Students should also be familiar with the stock market crash on 1929.
Materials: copy of Essential Questions (Engaging Question)
each for groups or 1. What caused the Great Depression?
for each student: 2. What role should the government play in helping guide the new deal program country out of an economic recession?
letters to president
Human Impact of
Learning Activities (Procedure)
Day/Week 1: In this activity students will work in groups of 2 or 3 to
examine four key economic problems faced by the United States during the
Great Depression and how those problems effected Americans by reading
letters sent to FDR and by examining some background information on the
human impact of the depression. Tell students that they will use these
documents to write a speech to be delivered to the American people from
the perspective of FDR in which they lay out their plan for ending the
depression. Tell students that they will need to explain at least four
policies or plans that they will introduce to help end the depression.
Begin day 1 by putting students in groups and distributing the
handout “The Human Impact of the Great Depression”
Day 2-3/Week 2: Have groups read and examine the letters sent to Mr. and
Mrs. Roosevelt and have them read the letter concerning the economic
information collected by the President’s Economic Council. Once students
have read through all this information have them begin work on their
speech. You man want to allow 2 or 3 days for students to work on their
speech and be sure that they are explaining at least four policies.
Day4/Week 4: Have students read FDR’s fireside chat in which he
outlined the New Deal. As students read have them complete a venn
diagram I which they compare their New Deal program to FDR’s New
Deal citing the differences and similarities.
1. http://www.mhric.org/fdr/fdr.html This site allows you to hear
FDR’s fireside chats.
Differentiated Instructional Strategies (Learning Advice)
1. Response group
2. venn diagram
3. you can have students act-out their speech
4. you can have students listen to FDR’s fireside speech
Letters to President and Mrs. Roosevelt
I am to have a baby. We wanted one before but felt we should have more assurance for future before we deliberately took such a responsibility. But now that it has happened, I won’t give it up!...Won’t you do something so my husband can have a job?...We have absolutely nothing but our home.
-letter to Eleanor Roosevelt from Mrs. M.H.A.
I am now at the point of desperation. But as I have 19 grandchildren all under 14 years of age 9 of whom are boys, to do anything desperate now they would never live down the disgrace. I was always a hard worker saved money invested in the auto business and lost. Am 55 years old…I would not wish at the cost of my life that any one should know I wrote you this letter seeking a loan…All I want is a chance.
-letter to F.D.R. from anonymous writer
I am a boy of 12 years…My father hasn’t worked for 5 months. He went plenty times to relief, he filled out application. They won’t give us anything. I don’t know why…My father he staying home. All the time he’s crying because he can’t find work. I told him
why are you crying daddy, and daddy said why shouldn’t I cry when there is nothing in the house. I feel sorry for him. That night I couldn’t sleep.
-letter to President and Mrs. Roosevelt
What I would like to know is this: how can a bank take our money and get by while an old couple have to let their houses go?
-letter to F.D.R. from a 13-year-old boy
Please help us. My mother is sick three year and was in the hospital three month and she came out but she is not better and my father is peralised and can not work and we are poor…We have no one to give us a Christmas presents and if you want to buy a Christmnas present please buy us a stove to do our cooking and to make good bread.
-letter to F.D.R. from a 10-year-old girl
I am ritening you a few lines to let you no how they are treating we colored people on this releaf. I went up to our home Vister and replied for some thing to do an some thing to eat and she told me that she has nothing for me at all and to they give all the worke to White people and give us nothing an Sir I wont you to no how we are treated here. So please help us if you can.
-anonymous letter to F.D.R.
Mr. Presentdent its certainly a strange thing the way we colored peoples is treated here this government money was sent down here for these peoples where is in knead and the poor widows Where is here going from place to place trying to get work and cant get nothng to do and hungry and what they does with the money we cant tell some thimes…white peoples is doing there own work and there fore that knocks the colored out of work and it isn’t enough work in the field to depend on…Some of we colored peoples is so ragged we is asham to get out among the peoples like some folks and its getting cold no wood and cold and if we don’t get something to do in order so we can have some money we will Freeze to death.
-anonymous letter to F.D.R.
The way they are treating the darkies here is a shame. They wont give them food nor Cloths nor Work to do When the Ask for Any thing they drive them away like dogs…And
its more than 200 Darkies in groups Standing on the Road each day begging for food and cloths.
-anonymous letter to F.D.R.
For the last three or four years we have had depression and suffered with my family and little children severely…I am living in this house for about ten years and when times were good we would put our last cent in the house and now I have no money, no home, and no wheres to go. I beg of you to please help me and my family and little children for the sake of a sick mother and suffering family to give this your immediate attention so we will not be forced to move or put out in the street.
Letter to F.D.R. from Mrs. E.L.
Date: March 10, 1933
To: President Franklin Roosevelt
From: President’s Economic Council
Re: Overproduction of Goods, Unequal Distribution of Wealth, High Unemployment, and Massive Poverty
Dear Mr. President,
In order to help you make recommendations to Congress as to possible solutions that could be taken to solve the current economic crisis we have collected data on several factors that may have contributed to the economic collapse. This letter will provide you with information over the overproduction of goods, unequal distribution of wealth, high unemployment, and massive poverty and it is our hope that you will be able to use the information to develop programs that will assist the citizens on the United States of America.
The economy is producing more goods than can be purchased and consumed. The consequences of this economic trend are evident in this evidence gathered by our committee during recent research.
; Automobile production has been reduced from 411,000 cars a month in 1929 to
just 89,000 a month in 1932. The average American no longer makes enough
money to buy a new car.
; 1 billion barrels of oil were produced in 1929. This year oil refineries will
produce only 800,000 barrels.
; Farm production outpaced demand to such a high degree that the price of wheat
dropped from $1.37 to 61 cents a bushel in 1930. Prices are presently so low that
wheat farmers are now losing $1.50 on every acre they plant. Some farmers are
destroying agricultural goods to try to raise prices by reducing supply.
; Contracts for building new homes and apartments are down 80 percent since 1929.
At the same time, several million Americans have become homeless because they
cannot afford housing.
One reason consumers lack purchasing power is the unequal distribution of wealth. Indicators of the concentration of wealth are apparent in this evidence gathered.
; 1 percent of the population has 59 percent of the national wealth. 33 percent of
the national wealth is held by 12 percent of the population. 87 percent of the
people own just 8 percent of the national wealth.
; 92 percent of all American families have incomes of $2,500 or less. 36,000
families share $9.8 billion a year: $2.5 million per fami8ly or a thousand times as
much as the other 92 percent.
; The wealthy tend to spend money on luxury items rather than basic necessities.
The general lack of wealth in the population accounts for the low sales of
automobiles, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and other durable consumer goods.
; The huge oversupply of workers has encouraged employers to cut wages.
Workers’ wages have dropped by 40 percent since 1929. Women working in
Brooklyn’s clothing industry are paid $2.39 for a 50-hour week. Union miners in
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky make $10.88 a week.
; One man, Samuel Insull of Chicago, sits on the board of directors for 150
different companies with a combined 50,000 employees and 3,250,000 customers.
On New Year’s Day in 1932 the value of the securities for these companies was
$3 billion. Insull is protected day and night by 36 bodyguards.
The unemployment rate has been growing since 1929 when the stock market crashed.
The unemployment rate has now reached extraordinary levels. The nature of the problem
is apparent in this evidence.
; In 1920 only 49 businesses per 10,000 failed. In 1932 the business failure rate
reached 155 per 10,000.
; Corporate profits have dropped from $10 billion three years ago to just $1billion
; As corporate profits have fallen and businesses failed, companies have laid off
workers. Today the unemployment rate stands at an all-time high of 23.5 percent;
nearly one of every four workers is unemployed.
; 13 million people are out of work. Millions of others have had their hours
; In Lowell, Massachusetts, once the center of the American textile industry, the
unemployment rate is 90 percent. In Akron, Ohio, the unemployment rate is 60
percent; in Cleveland, Ohio, 50 percent; in Toledo, Ohio, 80 percent. There are 1
million workers without jobs in New York City. Every week another 100,000
workers across the country lose their jobs.
; One Arkansas man walked 900 miles looking for work.
; A Manhattan employment agency advertised fro 300 jobs; 5,000 people applied.
Americans throughout the nation are suffering from economic hardship and the lack of
basic necessities. The difficulties they face are apparent in the evidence gathered: ; Over 60 percent of Americans are now categorized as poor by the federal
; Nine million savings accounts have been wiped out since 1930. With thousands
of banks failing and closing their doors, hard-working, honest people have lost
their financial safety nets.
; 273,000 families have been evicted from their homes in 1932.
; There are two million homeless people migrating around the country. They
include farmers forced off their land because of the severe drought and low prices
for agricultural good, men unable to find jobs in industries, and women with
young children in search of food and shelter.
; New York social workers report that one fourth of all schoolchildren are
malnourished. In the mining counties of West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and
Pennsylvania, the proportion of malnourished children may be as high as 90
; A Kentucky miner says that some people in his state have been surviving on wild
greens such as violet tops, wild onions, and forget-me-not wild lettuce.
Mr. President, I hope you use this information wisely and that it helps you create a plan
to help the millions of Americans being effected by this economic crisis.
The Human Impact of the Great Depression
The human impact of the Great Depression was dramatic and far-reaching. Bank failures, unemployment, and the decline of the farming industry left many people poor, homeless, and hungry.
Unemployment Many Americans lost their savings in bank failures during the Great Depression. In addition, they lost their jobs. By 1933, 25 percent of the labor force was unemployed and millions more were working only part time. In 1932 Fortune magazine reported that 34 million people belonged to families with no regular full-time wage earner. Unemployment affected people psychologically as well as financially. One unemployment businessman recalled: “My business was dropping from the beginning of 1928…Then I couldn’t pay rent…I didn’t have a nickel in my pocket…I was so downcasted that I couldn’t think of anything. Where can I go? What to face?…Believe me, when I was forced to go to the office of the relief, the tears were running out of my eyes.”
Minorities were usually the first to lose their jobs in the Depression. In Cleveland, for example, one half of all black women workers were unemployed, compared to one sixth of white women workers. Many employers replaced black workers in low-paying positions with newly unemployed whites. The Depression also affected women and men differently. Most people still felt that married women should remain in the home. Some states even passed laws forbidding the hiring of married women for government jobs. However, a majority of workingwomen were single and self-supporting; many of them also had children to support. Working women were often blamed for male unemployment and antagonized for being employed, even though they did not displace men in the clerical, teaching, and nursing fields.
The Farming Industry Decline Farmers, who had suffered economic hardship even
before the stock market crash, were hit hard y the Great Depression. During the 1920s, many farmers were deeply in debt due to large bank loans and low, agricultural prices. During the Depression, drought, clouds of hungry grasshoppers, bank failures, and dust storms further tormented them. As one writer described a dust storm in Iowa this way: “We endured it for three years. I think it was the dust that gave Mother the shivers. She stuck paper strips along the windowsills, rolled rugs against the doors, but still it sifted in, dry and fine as talcum powder, but gritty to taste and touch. The dust left a film on dishes in the cupboard, on sheets folded in drawers, on woodwork and chairs, on people’s faces and hair. Outside, if the wind blew, visibility would be cut to a few yards. Autos ran at midday with their headlights turned on. Drifts of dust piled against fences like snow, sometimes two and three feet high.” Over one million families lost their farms between 1930 and 1934. Many of these families migrated to California to find work as migrant farmers, whom a California Unemployment Commission reports referred t as an “army of homeless.”
The Lack of Public Relief Programs Having lost their savings and their jobs, people
from all walkers of life were homeless, hungry, and without hope of finding work. People turned to soup kitchens, bread lines, and shelters for meals and warmth. Before 1933, however, only local government relief agencies and charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross, were able to offer public assistance. Many cities improvised public relief programs, which were usually inadequate, temporary, and poorly funded. Some cities fired workers, closed libraries, and shot zoo animals in an attempt to get money for public services. Still, across the country, only about one forth of the unemployed were able to get help.
Besides begin poorly funded, relief efforts were hindered by Americans’ negative attitudes toward public assistance. Old-fashioned beliefs held that it was a person’s own
fault if he was poor and that public relief discouraged the poor from looking for work. Many people felt relief should be temporary, difficult to get, and less than the lowest wage offered by any employer. In this spirit, some states closed relief stations at harvest time to force the unemployed to work for whatever wages the farmers offered. In addition, some states disqualified those on relief from voting; others would provide families with relief only after they sold their property-such as cars, phones, jewelry, and even pianos-for groceries.
When public relief ran out, families with children were often hit the hardest. For example, in a New York City settlement house, Lillian Wald saw “semi-starved parents
trembling uncontrollable: what food they had they had given to their children.” In Chicago, teachers were warned to ask children what they had eaten before punishing them for bad behavior, because many children were eating only potatoes, which made them listless, aggravated, and sleepy. People at the bottom of the economic scale suffered the worst. As people’s diets deteriorated, malnutrition became common. Many people became ill with diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, and dysentery. In Harlan County, Kentucky, entire towns of unemployed coal miners were living on dandelions and blackberries. In Oklahoma, three fourths of all Native American children were undernourished.
Homelessness In every American city, landlord’s evicted families who could no longer
afford to pay their rent. Many families lived in crowded, unheated tenement apartments with other families to save money. Others resorted to sleeping in doorways or on park benches. For instance, several hundred women took to sleeping in Chicago’s Lincoln and
Grant Parks. In Oakland, California, hundreds of people lived in Sewer Pipe City, a multitude of leftover concrete sewer pipes.
As lack of money forced more and more people on to the street, “Hoovervilles,” made of cardboard shacks and packing boxes, sprang up in and around America’s largest cities. These areas were sarcastically named after President Hoover, who many people felt had done nothing to ease the nations suffering. One such shacktown outside Sacramento, California, was described by an inspector as “unfit for human occupancy…The majority of the inhabitants are white Americans with the exception of 50 or 60 Mexican families, a few single Mexican men, and a sprinkling of Negroes…The dwellings are built of brush, rags, sacks, boxboard, odd bits of tin and galvanized iron, pieces of canvas and whatever other material was at hand at the time of construction…Entire families, men, women and children, are crowded into hovels, cooking and eating in the same room. The majority of the shacks have no sinks or cesspools for the disposal of kitchen drainage, and this, together with garbage and other refuse, is thrown on the surface of the ground.”