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GET UP, STAND UP: The Story of Pop and Protest Flash Points
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Great Depression
Men at Depression-era soup kitchen. Female migrant worker (photo by Dorothea Lange) and unemployed men outside of soup kitchen.
Listen to songs by Woody Guthrie from BOUND FOR GLORY. The decade-long economic slump that began in the United States and spread to most of the world's industrialized nations was marked by record rates of unemployment, widespread bank and business failures, and low levels of farm and industrial
output, all of which left millions of Americans homeless and destitute. Several factors precipitated the downturn: inflation resulting from monetary policies to alleviate the debt incurred to finance World War I, growing income disparity and increased levels of consumer debt, a drop in prices for farm goods due to a worldwide postwar surplus, and the stock market crash of October 29, 1929.

Adding to the misery, a catastrophic drought hit the Midwest and Great Plains, destroying crops and turning the soil to dust. It forced thousands of farm families looking for work to migrate from states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to California. Their plight was chronicled by the bard of the era, Woody Guthrie. Government spending on New Deal programs and materials to fight World War II helped bring an end to the depression.

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Audio excerpts from BOUND FOR GLORY, Smithsonian Folkways FW02481, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Used by permission. (Photos: National Archives [top left and right] and Library of Congress [top center])

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