Minority Experiences: African Americans and Mexican Americans
These are black sharecroppers who were evicted from their homes. They are on Highway 60 in New Madrid County, Missouri.

African Americans

Times had already been tough for the African American race in the United States leading up the Great Depression. Things did not improve for them during the Depression and they had little benefits following the Great Depression.
Blacks and Politics
75% of the black voting population was becoming Democrats. Up until the point of the New Deal most black voters showed their loyalty to the Republican Party. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the Democratic candidate would gain more support with his spending programs, which would gain the blacks relief from the Depression. The GOP meaning the “Grand Old Party” referring to the Republican Party showed little support for the African Americans. While Roosevelt kept a modest view on civil rights he had to keep in mind the opinions of the southern Democrats. In order for him to be able to pass New Deal Acts he had to gain their support. However most of the New Deal programs discriminated against blacks.
By doing so, Roosevelt was forced to back away from equal rights to avoid conflicts with whites in the south. Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife, gained public support for civil rights.

Unfair Decisions

Decisions made by whites were non beneficial and often caused more problems for the blacks. The National Recovery Act (NRA) offered whites jobs before they were offered to other races. The blacks, who were given jobs, were offered separate and lower pay scales. The Social Security Act excluded job categories that the blacks would typically and traditionally have filled.
The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) refused to guarantee mortgages for those who tried to buy housing and land in white neighborhoods.
The Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC) was a program that supported many families. It was a group which was also known as Roosevelt’s Tree Army. The program helped to stimulate economies; they came up with improvements in fire protection, flood control, and forest activity. The CCC also helped to improve community safety. Blacks were allowed to be a part of this however the CCC maintained separate camps for the blacks and whites.
The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) caused even more problems for blacks. Forty percent of blacks were share croppers and tenant farmers. The AAA passed an acreage reduction act. This forced 100,000 blacks off the land in 1933 and 1934. White landlords were making more money by leaving their land untilled, rather than putting the land back into production. This gave fewer opportunities to black farmers and sharecroppers.
The president failed to support any anti-lynching bills or bills that would abolish the poll tax. Leaving most black leaders unable to vote and worried of the constant threat of being hurt. Roosevelt had feared that southern Democrats who had seniority in congress and those who controlled many committee chairmanships would block bills if he brought up the race factor.

This is a sign promoting the population of whites only. Many blacks were scared away from living in white communities. Things were made much harder for this race.


While there were few achievements made during the Great Depression for the black race, some were accomplished. President Roosevelt named a black educator, Mary McLeod Bethune, to the advisory committee of the National Youth Administration (NYA). In doing so blacks were able to receive a fair share of NYA founds. In Northern cities blacks benefited from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and their work relief programs. Harold Ickes, who was the Secretary of Interior, supported funds which would go into black schools and hospitals in the south. They also had a gain in the New Deal. Blacks were being appointed as advisors on black affairs. Blacks also gained more visibility when it came to the governments prospective.

Mexican Americans

Life for the Mexican Americans, as it was for African Americans during the Great Depression was made no easier. They faced many of the same hardships in which the blacks also faced.

This is an example of Mexican Americans living in the Imperial Valley. They lived in homes made of whatever they could spare.


Deportation for many Mexican Americans was a serious matter. Many left on their own but there were also the ones in which were forcibly removed from the country.
The Federal Bureau of Immigrations (after 1933 became the Immigration and Naturalization Service) along with the support of local authorities sent Mexicans to Mexico, in hope that it would help to reduce relief roles.
In February of 1930 there were 5,000 Mexicans and in August another 2,000 whom deported on a train leaving from San Antonio, Texas heading south for Mexico. The Federal Bureau of Immigration, which later, after 1933 became Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with local authorities, sent Mexicans to Mexico in an order to reduce relief roles. Another 400,000 some of whom were citizens of birth were sent across the border, from Arizona, Texas and California. In Los Angeles one third of its Mexican population was reduced. In February of 1932 in a park in Los Angeles police detained 400 adults and children and deported them from the country. Many were forced to leave, 82,000 were involuntarily deported by the federal government. The American Federation of Labor along with municipal governments had a goal of reducing the amount of Mexican immigrants.
It got to the point that some Mexican Americans left on their own terms. The threat of unemployment, deportation and loss of relief payments was a major issue. Tens of thousands of people left the United States during this time.

Problems with Few Solutions

Even before the stock market crashed deportation was an issue with many Mexican Americans. The local chambers of commerce, economic development associations, and state farm bureaus tried to impose strict immigration quotas. With rigid laws upon entering the US, the legal entry began to slow. William N. Doak was appointed Secretary of Labor in 1930, supporting the Bureau of Immigration launching raids to identify aliens whom were liable for deportation. Doak thought that this would open more jobs and help to reduce the relief aid.
Not everything was bad. The New Deal offered help, while minimal, it did offer help. Farm Security Administration established camps for migrant farm workers in California. The CCC and WPA hired immigrants on relief jobs. However, many did not qualify to work relief jobs because they were not meeting the residency requirements as migrant workers. The agricultural workers were not eligible for benefits under workers’ compensation, Social Security, and the Natural Labor Relations Act.

For more information about Mexican American expeirences during the Great Depression go to

Return Home

(Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2011). Mexican Americans. Digital History. Retrieved Monday September 19, 2011 from

(Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2011). African Americans and the New Deal. Digital History. Retrieved Monday, September 19, 2011 from