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New Deal No Deal For Most African Americans

September 30, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history, Social history

While reading Luther Adams’ article “Headed for Louisville” I was introduced to two topics rarely discussed in many historical lessons: the migration of African Americans within the south and the adverse affect of New Deal policies for most blacks.

When many people read about the “Great Migration” most think about the migration of African Americans from the South to the North, which did occur but why is the migration of southern blacks to other places withn the south widely ignored?  In his article Adams doesn’t offer a clear explanation to it, but he does mention the importance of a city such as Louisville had with African Americans.  “Indeed, many blacks migrated to Louisville from smaller towns within Kentucky; the city offered a variety of opportunites that did not exist anywhere else within the state”(Adams 11).  Louisville was a city within the south in which African Americans had more of a chance, although not much more, of better equality.  “Louisville has been called one of the most ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ cities on race relations in the south as well as a city with ‘southern racial traditions and a northern class dynamic'”(Adams 11).

Concerning the New Deal, however, is a topic that is not addressed enough.  Programs such as the AAA and the NRA which were meant to address social and financial crises confronting both blacks and whites proved to work negatively against most African Americans.  The AAA or Agricultural Administration Act which made farmers cut back acreage on their farms in order to receive a payout from the government which would raise crop production had the adverse affects on blacks.  Most White farmers woul dcut back the acreage of the sharecroppers first, who just happened to be black, and in turn would receive not only a check from the government, but also would not have African American sharecroppers on their land.  The NRA worked essentially in the smae way for urban African Americans.  Initially meant to create equal wages for both black and white employees, the NRA backfired in that white employers would fire black employees noting that “if they paid whites and blacks the same, what was the point of paying blacks?” (Adams).

This article goes into much more depth than the brief oversight that I’m giving it through this entry, but after reading it, it made me wonder how a person such as Mae Street Kidd was able to confront such issues, having lived through them in the majority of her youth.  Especially when she was not only African American, but a woman as well.  I think that it’s important to reflect on the significance of such events and realize that these occurances were, unfortunately, typical of the times.

Luther J. Adams, “Headed for Louisville”: Rethinking Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950, J of Social History 40(Winter 2006), 407-430.

Second Great Migration Leads to more Hard Times

September 23, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

After the abolition of slavery the majority of African Americans continued to live in the south. A lot of people continued to work on farms, only this time as sharecroppers instead of slaves, a lifestyle that most people would consider just as tedious and difficult as being a slave on a farm. African Americans were still under the control of the white landowners and forced to deal with constant ridicule and negative attitudes displayed by the white landowners. Then the New Deal allowed landowners more money for fewer crops which lead to the evicting of southern sharecroppers.[1]

By the 1930’s the Great Depression, the end of sharecropping and consistent violence had forced many African Americans to migrate to urban cities in the hopes of surviving and acquiring a job. This increase in African Americans in large cities also brought many black doctors and lawyers to the big cities as well to help other black people. Maurice Rabb was a black doctor in Shelbyville Kentucky, but was forced to move to Louisville because work was hard to come by in Shelbyville. He was often times paid in food instead of money.[2]   

After many blacks had successfully traveled to major southern cities from the rural areas in search of jobs and a steady income the New Deal struck again in the favor of whites. The National Recovery Administration (N.R.A.), designed to create more jobs and fair wages for everyone, ended up simply evicting blacks from their jobs in the cities because a lot of people fired blacks in order to hire whites. Companies thought that if they had to pay whites and blacks the same amount of money, that they would only hire white employees and this is why many African Americans considered the N.R.A. to actually stand for the “Negro Removal Act”.[3] African Americans truly believed and hoped that the policies of the New Deal would help bring equality to the work force but the N.R.A. had two different pay scales for black people and white people.[4]

African Americans clearly had hard times as sharecroppers in the south, but even after migrating to large urban cities like Louisville, blacks were forced to deal with unfair wages created by loop holes in the New Deal and constant racism from people everywhere. Despite these facts of struggle, African Americans are now thriving in urban areas and have acquired a more equality and equal wages in the work force.  


[1] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[2] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[3] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[4] Sears M. James, “Black Americans and the New Deal,” The History Teacher, Vol. 10 No. 1., (November 1976), 92.

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