Houston and The Great Depression (1927-1954, Section 4)
The Great Depression of the 1930s was the worst economic crisis in American History
In the 1930s, the United States was mired in the worst economic crisis in its history; the poor and minorities who already experienced discrimination suffered disproportionately. Inaugurated in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt launched a series of loosely connected reforms known as the New Deal in an attempt to correct the economy and to alleviate the suffering. Roosevelt’s policies reconfirmed Americans’ faith in their government and economy, but had mixed results in ending the Depression. Ultimately, increased military production, both before and after the U.S. entry into World War II, brought new prosperity to the nation.
By 1930, Houston was the most populous city in Texas. Due to its ties to the oil industry and the city’s phenomenal growth, Houstonians fared better than many Americans during the Great Depression, but its economic growth slowed and many residents faced unemployment. During the 1930s, African-Americans from Louisiana and other southern states joined other migrants flooding Houston in search of work. As they competed for the dwindling number of jobs, African-Americans faced continued discrimination and still were segregated into poor housing.
Thanks to business leaders like Jesse Jones, not a single bank closed in Houston
As the United States transitioned to a wartime economy in the early 1940s, Houstonians played a vital role. In 1940, some 77,000 Harris County men, including many African Americans, participated in the first peacetime draft in American history. The demand for petroleum products and synthetic rubber propelled the construction of refineries and manufacturing plants along the Houston Ship Channel. Increased production, in turn, created new jobs, and African Americans filled many, joining the war effort in concert with unprecedented numbers of women.