The New Deal and World War II

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Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt on Labor Discrimination (1939)

Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt

This source was written on April 11, 1939 by Helen M. Eastlock in Haddonfield, New Jersey. It is addressed to Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Roosevelt who was the United States of America’s 32nd president. Ms. Eastlock writes to Mrs. Roosevelt to inform her of an injustice being done in a shipyard in New Jersey and to persuade Mrs. Roosevelt to speak with her husband about the situation. Ms. Eastlock states that the New York Ship Building Corporation (NYSBC), located in Camden, New Jersey, is discriminating against colored people in their hiring practices. Despite colored people making up about one-tenth of Camden’s population, only a small proportion of the jobs at NYSBC are held by colored people. Ms. Eastlock furthers that this is especially unfair because much of the business NYSBC receives is through government orders, paid by tax dollars from all citizens. After the Great Depression, the unemployment rate of African Americans was double of the rate for whites. FDR’s New Deal created numerous new projects that demanded labor, but often these projects favored hiring white people over African Americans. This sources alludes to discrimination felt by the African American community in hiring practices and provides an example of a white woman working to bring equality to labor.

Photograph of Transportation Segregation (1940)

Picture of man waiting outside bus stop

This source is a photograph taken in May of 1940 by Jack Delano. Pictured is a black man waiting outside a bus station in Durham, North Carolina. In the background there is a sign labeled “Colored Waiting Room.” This is an example of how African Americans in the United States were discriminated against through basic societal activities such as transportation. It wasn’t until 1955 that a successful movement against the segregation of seating on buses came about. This movement took place in Montgomery, Alabama were about three fourths of all the public bus riders were of color. Their bus boycott was effective because bus companies began to lose money and eventually gave in to the creation of an open seating bus system. This movement paved the way for leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to show the power in equality.

Letter from NAACP Member Regarding Housing Inequality (1949)

Letter to housing committee member

This source was written by Hortense W. Gabel on July 8, 1949 in New York, New York. It is addressed to Marian Wynn Perry who is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Hortense Gabel is the Executive Secretary of the New York State Committee on Discrimination in Housing. In this letter Gabel writes to Perry informing her of the large investment in housing that the government is willing to make through the National Housing Bill. Gabel also asks Perry if she could organize a group of planners from the NAACP to attend a conference held by the committee and help them make informed decisions to achieve their goal of urban redevelopment. Many of the mortgages issued at the time held clauses that prohibited the resale of property to African Americans. This prohibited African Americans from living in a lot of areas in the United States. This source is a great example of how housing in the United States was a source of discrimination and that the was an effort by the New York State Committee on Discrimination in Housing to make the state sponsored initiative more equal.