Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California by Kevin StarrIn Endangered Dreams, Starr begins with the rise of radicalism on the Pacific Coast, which erupted when the Great Depression swept over California in the 1930s. Starr captures the triumphs and tumult of the great agricultural strikes in the Imperial Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, Stockton, and Salinas, identifying the crucial role played by Communist organizers; he also shows how, after some successes, the Communists disbanded their unions on direct orders of the Comintern in 1935. The highpoint of social conflict, however, was 1934, the year of the coastwide maritime strike, and here Starrs narrative talents are at their best as he brings to life the astonishing general strike that took control of San Francisco, where workers led by charismatic longshoreman Harry Bridges mounted the barricades to stand off National Guardsmen. That same year socialist Upton Sinclair won the Democratic nomination for governor, and he launched his dramatic End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign. In the end, however, these challenges galvanized the Right in a corporate, legal, and vigilante counterattack that crushed both organized labor and Sinclair. And yet, the Depression also brought out the finest in Californians: state Democrats fought for a local New Deal; California natives helped care for more than a million impoverished migrants through public and private programs; artists movingly documented the impact of the Depression; and an unprecedented program of public works (capped by the Golden Gate Bridge) made the California we know today possible.
Californians witnessed tremendous change to their state during the decade of the Great Depression. This was due to California's economy, which was healthy when compared to other states. Three industries, in particular, thrived in the s and attracted thousands of new settlers: agriculture, oil production and film making. Since these industries were concentrated in southern California, that region captured the designation of economic center of the state. After suffering through several years of severe drought and joblessness, farm workers from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri began arriving at the fruit and vegetable fields of the San Joaquin Valley in the mids, looking for work. Known generically as "Okies," between , and , migrated to California. Between and , wind-generated dust storms produced clouds of blowing top soil in western Kansas and in the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas.
At the beginning of the s, more than 15 million Americans—fully one-quarter of all wage-earning workers—were unemployed. Though the New Deal alone did not end the Depression, it did provide an unprecedented safety net to millions of suffering Americans. The stock market crash of October 29, , provided a dramatic end to an era of unprecedented, and unprecedentedly lopsided, prosperity. The disaster had been brewing for years. In any case, the nation was woefully unprepared for the crash. For the most part, banks were unregulated and uninsured.
Jump to navigation. When the U. For businesses and millions of individuals, fear and failure became as commonplace as optimism and prosperity had been before the economic collapse. The Great Crash soon became the Great Depression. Owners of manufacturing plants could not sell their goods, so they laid off workers. Unable to find employment, workers lost their savings and could not afford to make purchases.
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History Brief: the Dust Bowl
The economic crisis of the s is one of the most studied periods of American history, and facts about the Great Depression are interesting to read. Scholars have studied the economic calamity from all angles and amassed an immense collection of facts about the depression. Some products and sayings we still use today have their roots in the Great Depression. Soup was called "Hoover Stew," and shantytowns made of cardboard and sheets were called "Hoovervilles. It had its own mayor, churches and social institutions.