Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section010/George Harmon Kirby
Overview[edit | edit source]
George Harmon Kirby was a man from Summer Springs who worked as a bus driver for the Jacksonville Traction Company in Jacksonville, Florida. Kirby was interviewed by Lillian Stedman during the mid 1900's for the Federal Writers' Project.
Biography[edit | edit source]
George Harmon Kirby also known as James Kerby Ward, was a white man born in a small-town name Togo and raised in Summer Springs. As the years passed, he eventually moved to Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and started a family. Kirby married his childhood sweetheart whom he had three kids with, one boy, and two younger girls. Since 1918, for twenty years, George Harmon Kirby had worked for the Traction Company as a bus driver. Kirby and his family were socially involved in the community as they went to church, attended and/ or participated in school events, and voted.
Family Life[edit | edit source]
George Harmon Kirby also known as James Kerby Ward, was a white man born on a farm, in a small-town name Togo and raised in Summer Springs. Kirby met his wife through his parents and got together when they were young. After three years of being in a relationship, they got married in 1913. As the years passed, Kirby eventually moved to Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and started a family. Kirby ended up having three kids, William, Genola, and Rachel. The youngest daughter, Rachel had health complications which became a financial burden for the Kirby family. Luckily for Kirby, he was financially responsible which helped him maintain a well-furnished home and have his kids in school. Kirby and his family were socially involved in the community as they went to church, attended and/ or participated in school events, and voted.
Working Life[edit | edit source]
Since 1918, for twenty years, George Harmon Kirby had worked for the Traction Company as a bus driver. Kirby began working for forty-eight cents per day and his highest pay came to be fifty-three cents per hour. He claimed that during The Great Depression, his pay dropped two cents or more per hour. Kirby was considered a liberal bus driver and believed racial divisions should have been removed from transportation services since they were unnecessary and irrelevant. He considered himself to be an old-fashioned Democrat, who always kept his political opinions private to himself.
Social Context[edit | edit source]
Economic Hardships[edit | edit source]
At the beginning of the 1900s, America had just become the largest industrial country in the world. This was thanks to successful and business booming inventions such as the telephone, the electric light, and the automobile. Banks, steel factories, tobacco plants and ranches, and steamships were businesses that drove America’s economy to the top. These “big businesses” were the ones that Americans believed would keep their economy stable and innovate the country. For the most part, these companies were the ones that innovated the country. But during the Great Depression these businesses were negatively affected as the Depression left companies with no money to pay workers which caused the decline of big business. Because people believed that these businesses would be the ones to keep the nation from going under during the Great Depression, when they weren’t able to live up to the expectation, people began losing their faith in these industries. People began looking to the government and labor movement for help. With the Supreme Court overturning Lochner, the government was able to implement policies that would give them economic regulation to limit the power of business. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt, the power would stay in the government's hands as he “looked to implement programs that would revive the economy and country” (Cole, 2004). The New Deal which used permanent job programs and programs such as the TVA which built dams and hydroelectric projects to save money, would lead to the eventual recovery of the nation’s economy.
Racial Segregation[edit | edit source]
During America’s most troubling economic time, racism was still present in most aspects of life. Residential segregation shaped inequality in educational opportunities. The Homeowner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Government Issue (GI) Bill created the contemporary U.S. homeownership society during The Great Depression , which “largely excluded people and communities of color from affordable mortgage credit through explicit and implicit means…” (Faber, 2020). Racism kept people of color from being able to afford certain housing which kept them away from good schools, which prevented them from getting a better education than they would have at another school. Not only did this segregation affect the education that people of color were able to get, because those in power decided that being near those of color would lower the property value of a residence, this influenced people to segregate even more. These policies put in place that would allow for the racial segregation to take place would create a “vicious housing cycle” that would deepen racial stereotypes, the divide in wealth between whites and people of color, and racial isolation.
Healthcare[edit | edit source]
Health care was a service that wasn’t available to most people. Moreover, it wasn’t available to those who needed it the most. Every significant decision about health care coverage and financing during the last century by government at every level has either “overtly or covertly rationed access to care, mainly by race, class, and geography” (Fox, 2014). Health care was rationed to people based on the color of their skin, their social and economic status, and where they lived. During the Great Depression, when the economy was at its lowest point, health care itself was hard to come by for anyone. To make matters worse, it was only mainly given to those who lived in the most valuable houses and had the most money. These policies and companies that rationed health care set the tone for future health care and medical care policies. For example, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 “retains and updates many aspects of US style rationing.” (Fox, 2014). Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program also use policies and tactics that ration health care coverage.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
❊ Cole, Harold L., and Lee E. Ohanian. 2004 “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis.” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 112, no. 4, The University of Chicago Press, pp. 779–816, https://doi.org/10.1086/421169.
❊ Dictionary of American History Encyclopedia “Democratic Coalition 1933-1941”. 22 Sep.
2021.” Encyclopedia.com https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/big-business.
❊ Faber, Jacob W. 2020 “We Built THIS: Consequences of New Deal Era Intervention in America's Racial Geography” SAGE Journals. Accessed September 30, 2021. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0003122420948464.
❊ Fox, Daniel M. 2014 “Health Care for Some: Rights and Rationing in the United States since 1930 by Beatrix HOFFMAN (REVIEW).” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Press https://muse.jhu.edu/article/542615.
❊ History.com 2009. “Great depression history” History.com https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/great-depression-history.