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American Dream Betrayed

Chicago 1941

A slideshow created by bob60626 using photos from the Library of Congress' online collection. Accompanying text from The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago/Chicago Historical Society.


"The Great Depression was particularly severe in Chicago because of the city's reliance on manufacturing, the hardest hit sector nationally. Only 50 percent of the Chicagoans who had worked in the manufacturing sector in 1927 were still working there in 1933. African Americans and Mexicans were particularly hurt. By 1932, 40 to 50 percent of black workers in Chicago were unemployed. Many Mexicans returned, responding to incentives like the free transportation offered from Chicago, or to the more coercive measures in Gary, Indiana Harbor, and South Chicago. Nor were white-collar employees necessarily safe. By February 1933, public school teachers were owed eight-and-a-half months' back pay . . .

"By the early 1940s, war production orders had effectively ended the unemployment and deflation that had marked so much of the 1930s. The Great Depression, however, had left its mark. Like much of the nation, Depression-era Chicago experienced stark poverty and a reorientation toward the Democratic Party. Like much of the nation, too, Chicago neighborhoods lost such landmarks as mom-and-pop stores and low-wattage, independent radio stations. White ethnic identity, while not entirely disappearing, was reconfigured with the loss of these institutions and the growth of a mass labor movement. African Americans now looked to the Democratic Party and the national government in their battles against segregation and discrimination. Indeed, the Great Depression transformed the daily lives, economic expectations, and political loyalties of most Chicagoans. The debates and unrest it engendered continued to frame political and social movements for the next 50 years."

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Comments welcome.




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Posted on July 13, 2012


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