Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 6
Being Heard
Being Heard
During the Great Depression many New Yorkers lost their jobs. Because of this they were unable to afford food and shelter for their families.

New York State was among the first states to respond with a large-scale relief program. This program was intended to provide employment or direct aid to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in need. Large sums of money were passed through Tammany Hall, the city hall of the time, but almost none of the money reached the people for whom it was intended. Tammany officials siphoned off most of the money and gave much of the rest to party regulars.

Many people found themselves residing in Hoovervilles, which were shelters built of everything from boxes to scrap metal. Hoovervilles got their name from President Hoover, who was in office when the Great Depression began, because many blamed him for their jobless, homeless condition. Hunger was even more widespread than homelessness. Each day, millions of people stood on breadlines to get whatever scraps of food they could. However, the relief was not enough. Many grew sick from the lack of food.

Identify a senior citizen in your community who remembers the Great Depression. As a group, interview that person, and ask the following questions:
  1. Where did you live during the Depression era?

  2. How did the Depression affect your family?

  3. How did the Depression affect your community?

  4. What was the public's general impression of politicians at the time?

  5. How long did you think it was going to last? Were you surprised by its duration?

  6. What items were necessary for your family's survival?

  7. What would you do if you were ill?

  8. Can you find examples of corruption today that takes needed help away from the public?
As a group, discuss how your lives would be today if you had grown up during the Great Depression.

Now, write a four-paragraph (or longer) biography about the senior citizen's family and how the Depression affected his or her family and community. You should also include the following details about the senior citizen you interviewed: (first name, date of birth and age during the Depression). Share your findings with your family, your friends, and with your class.