Examining the New Deal

Essential Question: Was the New Deal a success or a failure?

Today you will be learning about the New Deal. Following are various documents concerning FDR's New Deal program. Some documents will have agents to help you work through the document.  Some documents will also have writing prompts at the end. These prompts will help you form your conclusion on whether the New Deal was a success or failure.

 This lesson is adaptated from the Stanford History Education Group.  The link to that lesson can be found here: http://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/Lessons/Unit%2010_New%20Deal%20and%20World%20War%20II/New%20Deal%20SAC%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf


President Roosevelt gave this speech over the radio on May 7, 1933, two months after he became president. He called these radio addresses“fireside chats,” and this was his second one as president.

Tonight, I come for the second time to tell you about what we have been doing and what we are planning to do. . . .

First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men, to go into forestry and flood prevention work…

Next, the Congress is about to pass legislation  that will greatly ease the mortgage distress among the farmers and the home owners of the nation, by easing the burden of debt now bearing so heavily upon millions of our people…

I know that the people of this country will understand this and
will also understand the spirit in which we are undertaking this

All of us, the Members of the Congress and the members of
this Administration owe you, the people of this country, a profound debt of gratitude

Link to original document: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14636#axzz1oOgX8FjU


Most New Deal programs discriminated against blacks. The NRA (National Recovery Administration), for example, not only offered whites the first crack at jobs but allowed separate and lower wages for blacks.

The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) refused to guarantee
mortgages  for blacks who tried to buy in white neighborhoods, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) maintained segregated camps.Furthermore, the Social Security Act did not include most jobs blacks historically held.

The story in agriculture was particularly grim. Since 40 percent of all black workers made their living as sharecroppers and tenant farmers, the Agricultural Adjustment Association (AAA) land reduction hit blacks hard. White landlords could make more money by leaving land unplanted than by planting it. As a result, the AAA's policies forced more than 100,000 blacks off the land in 1933 and 1934. 

Even more upsetting to black leaders, the president failed to support an anti-lynching law and a law to abolish the poll tax. Roosevelt feared that conservative southern Democrats, would block his bills if he tried to fight them on this issue.

Link to original text: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/teachers/module18/intro_pop19.html


I do think that Roosevelt is the biggest-hearted man we ever had in the White House…It’s the first time in my recollection  that a President ever got up and said, “I’m interested in and aim to do somethin’ for the workin’ man.’ Just knowin’ that for once there was a man to stand up and speak for him, a man that could make what he felt so plain nobody could doubt he meant it, has made a lot of us feel a lot better even when there wasn’t much to eat in our homes.

Original source: Federal Writer’ Project, These Are Our Lives, (Norton & Co., 1939).


One million undernourished children have benefited by the Works Progress Administration's school lunch program. In the past year and a half 80,000,000 hot well-balanced meals have been served at the rate of 500,000 daily in 10,000 schools throughout the country…

For many children, who are required to leave home early in the
morning and travel long distances after school hours to reach their homes, the WPA lunch constitutes  the only hot meal of the day…

Through the daily service of warm, nourishing food, prepared by qualified, needy women workers, the WPA is making it possible for many underprivileged children of the present to grow into useful, healthy citizens of the future.

Link to original document: http://newdeal.feri.org/works/wpa02.htm


Written and Performed by the Carter Family
Recorded: 1936

Out here the hearts of men are failing
For these are latter days we know
The great depression now is spreading
God's words declared it would be so

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in heaven, I'm going there

In that bright land there'll be no hunger
No orphan children crying for bread
No weeping widows toil or struggle
No shrouds, no coffins, and no dead

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil  and trouble
My home's in heaven, I'm going ther


Roosevelt appointed John Collier, a leading reformer, as
Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933. Collier pushed Congress to create the Indian Emergency Conservation Program (IECP), a program that employed more than 85,000 Indians. Collier also made sure that the PWA, WPA, CCC, and NYA hired Native Americans.

In 1934 Collier convinced Congress to pass the Indian
Reorganization Act, which provided money for tribes to purchase new land. That same year, the government provided federal grants to local school districts, hospitals, and social welfare agencies to assist Native Americans.

Congress is authorized to appropriate  million from which loans may be made for the purpose of promoting the economic
development of the tribes…

About seventy-five of the tribal corporations are now functioning, with varying degrees of success, and the number continues to grow. The Jicarillas have bought their trading post and are running it; the Chippewas run a tourist camp; the Northern Cheyennes have a very successful livestock cooperative: the Swinomish of Washington have a tribal fishing business. There are plenty of others to prove these
corporations can be made to work…

The truth is that the New Deal Indian administration is neither as successful as its publicity says it is, nor as black and vicious a failure as the severest critics would have us believe. Many Indian problems remain unsolved, but every one has been addressed


Alden Stevens, “Whither the American Indian,” Survey Magazine of Social Interpretation, 

March 1, 1940