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At the onset of the Great Depression, the economic downturn of the 1930s, many
Texans assumed that the downturn was an eastern financial collapse and would
not affect Texas. By the winter of 1930-1931, however, the price of cotton had
dropped to less than a nickel a pound. More than 350,000 Texans were out of
work by mid-1932, and at least 25 percent of them had no resources to survive
unemployment. Dwindling tax revenues and the lack of industries limited public
funds, and private charities had no funds.

Consequently Texans, like other Americans, were anxious for federal aid, and
they voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932
presidential election over the incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt
promised a New Deal for Americans in his inaugural address, and his domestic
programs profoundly affected the Texas economy in the 1930s. Under
Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, the federal government provided direct relief
payments to states and individuals for the first time in history. Programs such as
the Works Progress Administration and others hired the unemployed to work on
public projects.

Putting people back to work meant that many minority Texans were included in
the public work projects. At first local white leaders wanted blacks and Mexican
Americans excluded from government employment. But under pressure from
federal administrators and organizations such as the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, which were located in Eastern cities in which
blacks could vote, state administrators relented and included minorities in federal