The South in the 1930s

 by Scott Harrison


The 1930s is best characterized by one event: The Great Depression. When the stock market crashed in 1929, its affects overshadowed all aspects of society. All politics, art, business, and social issues of the decade were what they were because of the Great Depression.

Although money and jobs were short, people still did what they could to be happy and have fun, and the importance of the arts was not overlooked. Just like everything else in the decade, art was dominated by the Great Depression. Most paintings and photography of the time was supported by the government, and the art therefore, had much to do with the people of the land, particularly in rural areas, and usually of something out of daily life, while others are abstract references to the social issues of the time.

In music, jazz was popular. There were many songs such as “Brother can you spare a dime” that talk of the hardships of the depression. More popular, however, were the songs of the big bands from which some of the most famous names in American music come from. Some of these are Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.

Although scientific research suffered from a lack of funding, many advances in science and medicine were still made during the 1930s such as new research in plastics, and a safer way to do blood transfusions.

Public education underwent some hard times during the 1930s as well. Because of the shortage of money, many parents were not able to buy the clothes, supplies, and textbooks needed for school. This was an even larger problem in the South, where the hardest hits of the depression was on farmers. Because of the shortage of money, many children were needed to help at home just to make ends meet. Many times, taxes in these rural areas went unpaid, virtually eliminating required funding. One rural Arkansas school was forced to charge tuition to stay open for the school year. The parents who were able to afford to put their children through school, did so by bartering what they had. One farmer gave the school wood for the furnaces in exchange for tuition. Despite these hardships, some positive events happened in the field of education. The famous “Dick and Jane” books were first published during this time. These books helped teach thousands how to read by teaching them one word a page.

In politics, the 1930s saw many movements. One in particular is the increased interest in the Civil Rights Movement, of which Paul Robeson was an active participant. Most of politics, however, dealt with the economic issues of the time. The government was drastically trying to recover from depression, and many government programs were started to create jobs. IN the South, the Tennessee Valley Authority was created for the purpose of controlling floods and rivers. During this time the first minimum wage was also introduced.

 “United States History Index.” 6 March 1993. Writing Center, Valdosta State U, Valdosta, GA. 17 March 2003. <>. 



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