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Lesson Plan on Life During the Great Depression: A Diversity of Experiences

To some extent, the optimism of the Roaring Twenties was stymied by the financial crash of October 1929 and the economic depression that ensued. Conventional memory of the The Great Depression (TGD) paints a historically inaccurate, often whitewashed, version of life in America during  TGD. To the chagrin of historians of this era, we paint TGD in broad brushstrokes and, as a consequence, overlook the nuances and the diversity of American Experiences during TGD.

Thus, the objective of this lesson is to explore how different people from different walks of life experienced TGD. This era was complex, dynamic, and curious; it was not just Depressing.

To this end, each of you will read 1 of these 4 documents and respond to the questions given

Print your reading responses, bring them to class, and be prepared to discuss the articles.

Group #1: Wall Street Stock Broker
Group #2: American Women
Group #3: White Americans
Group #4: African Americans

If stories of life during the Depression peaks your curiosity, here are some video documentaries that explore themes of life in the TGD:

The Civilian Conservation Corps

The Crash of 1929

Hoover Dam

Hurricane of ’38

Riding the Rails


Surviving the Dust Bowl

If you are really interested in life during TGD, my favorite book on the era, and one of my favorite oral histories, is Hard Times by my hometown hero Studs Terkel


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