- The New Deal was a series of plans made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fix the country after the Great Depression.
- When he became President in 1933, he acted quickly to help the economy and provide jobs for those hurting.
- Between 1933-1938, there were many different programs and projects that the government created.
- These programs have made the US federal government more prominent because it intervened with new policies and plans.
The Great Depression began when the stock market crashed in 1929. The 1930s Dust Bowl made it worse. Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented several programs, collectively known as the New Deal, to address the economy’s deterioration.
On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. He gave a speech on Capitol Plaza in Washington DC to 100,000 people. He said that the only thing we should be afraid of is fear itself.
He promised he would work to face the problems of the moment. He told Americans that he would fight this emergency. He gave them confidence that they had elected someone who was not afraid to take bold steps. He spoke and told people he would solve their problems.
Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 acceptance speech for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is credited with giving birth to the phrase. Roosevelt declared, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”
The phrase “New Deal” eventually included all of Roosevelt’s efforts to help the United States recover from the Great Depression. Even though Roosevelt had no specific policies in mind, he still won his first election.
The next day, Roosevelt said that there would be a four-day break. This was to stop people from taking their money out of banks that had problems. On March 9, the Roosevelt Emergency Banking Act was passed by Congress, which reorganized the banks and closed those that were failing.
In his first “fireside chat” three days after, the president talked to people and told them they needed to put their money in the bank. He said that most people did it by the end of the month.
Read more about the Great Depression
The First Days
Roosevelt’s quest to end the Great Depression started. He had many big plans, so people called those first 100 days “The First 100 Days.”
The President asked Congress to take the first step in ending Prohibition. Prohibition was more of a divisive issue of the 1920s. The end of Prohibition came when Congress made it legal to rebuy beer.
The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution said that it is illegal to make, carry or sell beer and wine. This was a period in American history known as Prohibition. On January 17, 1920, the Volstead Act became law. This law made it illegal to make or sell alcohol.
Prohibition was hard to enforce when the new laws were passed. More and more people were breaking the law and drinking alcohol. Gang violence was going up. The government tried to stop it, but it wasn’t working.
Congress adopted a resolution to get rid of the 18th Amendment, which ended Prohibition. The 21st Amendment was ratified then. What followed was that the 18th was repealed.
More actions for the New Deal
In May, Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act into law, which created the TVA. The TVA made dams along the Tennessee River. These dams helped with flooding and also generated electricity for people in the region.
Congress passed a bill to pay farmers who produced wheat, dairy products, tobacco, and corn. This was done to reduce surpluses and raise crop prices.
The National Industrial Recovery Act gave people the right to unionize. People who worked together could get higher wages and better working conditions.
The Fair Labor Standards Act ensured that people worked for 40 hours a week, and they got paid more if they did overtime. People had to make a certain amount of money per hour. It also stopped kids from working too.
The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was a turning point for Native Americans. It made them feel better. The law helped the Native Americans get their land back.
The Homestead Act encouraged people to become self-governed, increased educational opportunities, and made credit available for small farms. When the law was passed, it changed the relationship between Native Americans and the government.
The New Deal helped Hispanic Americans by giving them help with their problems. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) hired Mexican Americans for relief jobs. In California, the Farm Security Administration established camps for migrant farmworkers.
Many people in America found both good and bad things about this group of bills. The President promised to take direct and vigorous action. And he did!
The Second New Deal
Even though the President and his cabinet tried their best, the Great Depression continued. The Great Depression saw unemployment persisting and individuals getting angrier and more desperate. The New Deal was followed by the Second New Deal, which was more aggressive and extensive in scale.
To employ unemployed individuals, President Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935. The WPA built post offices, schools, bridges, and highways, together with parks. The WPA also gave work to artists and musicians.
The Wagner Act created a board to help unions and ensure that businesses do not mistreat their workers. The Social Security Act was a law that guaranteed pensions to millions of Americans. The Social Security Act set up a system of unemployment insurance and said that the federal government would help people who were disabled or had children.
Still, the Great Depression dragged on. Workers grew angrier about their jobs. For example, the United Auto Workers struck a GM plant in Flint, Michigan. This strike lasted for 44 days and spread to some 150,000 autoworkers in 35 cities. Some 8 million people joined unions and demanded their rights.
John Maynard Keynes
The New Deal helped by using money that the government borrowed to help people. This is what John Maynard Keynes thought about money. He was a British economist.
Keynes argued that if the government spends money, people can consume it instead. Then they can buy products made by companies. Then, as employers sold more products, they would have enough money to hire more workers. They could buy more things because they had more money.
The Roosevelt administration argued that the Great Depression could be reversed if people spent more money. The New Deal was only partially successful. The Supreme Court ruled against several of the New Deal’s initiatives.
Women and the New Deal
There were many different types of projects in work-relief programs. Women did projects just as well as men.
Most women worked on sewing projects. These workers made 500 million items of clothing. These are things people who can’t afford much need to buy, like stuffed animals and bedding.
Women were primarily responsible for the school lunch program. They made and served 1.2 billion nutritious meals.
Women also worked on the WPA on fields like:
- scientific research
- toy repair
- recreational leadership
- and more!
The End of the New Deal
Meanwhile, the New Deal had a lot of problems. It faced many difficulties. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court already made it so that people couldn’t vote for reforms like the National Recovery Administration. President Roosevelt said that to protect his programs, there needed to be more liberal judges. He wanted to stop the “obstructionist” conservatives.
In that same year, the economy was going downhill. The government had even less money to spend. Despite this seeming vindication of New Deal policies, people became more and more against President Roosevelt. He couldn’t enact any new programs because of this.
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The US ended up joining the war. By doing this, it helped end the Great Depression.
President Roosevelt had a plan for this. He created new procedures and policies that made a new political coalition.
His New Deal included working people and African Americans. Women went to work as more secretarial roles were made available in government as Roosevelt expanded.
These groups believed that an interventionist government was good for their families, the economy, and the nation. Their coalition has broken up. Many of the programs they shared -like Social Security, unemployment compensation, and federal agricultural subsidies– are still in place today.
The New Deal did a lot of good for people who had been left out. It helped them. It allowed people who were old, women, and those who were disabled or refugees.
The New Dealers were in a hard place. They had to fight against discrimination and the social hierarchy. They couldn’t change all the opinions, habits, and power relations in the US.
The New Deal had the most anti-racist policies since Reconstruction. Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, was an advocate for racial equality. She cared about justice, too. Martin Luther King, Jr. said of her, “The impact of her personality and unwavering devotion to high principle and purpose cannot be contained in a single day or era”.
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