Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section010/Rich Gray

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Rich Gray Biography[edit | edit source]

Rich Gray, resident of South Florida and Manna, South Carolina native is an African American man who works collecting tupertines. He is a normally relaxed man who at times keeps his guard up for the protection of him and his wife. Rich is in his early fifties and lives with his wife Lula Gray who is 37 years old. They have a 3 roomed house that is built poorly but decorated nicely on the inside to be made comfortable. Rich rides his horse Joe, covering 20-30 acres a day looking out for fires and seeking out readily available turpentine trees. The men who worked for and with him collect the tupertines and make around 90 cents to $1.25 per ~1500 tupertines collected. Rich uses his money to take care of him and his wife and put food on the table. He hunts his own meat on the large land acreage in order to save money due to the rising prices of groceries. Rich occasionally attends church but not like others in the community who go on the regular. Rich, also being strong willed, chooses to not vote in fear of voting for something he does not truly understand. Overall Rich Gray, a strong willed but kind hearted man is someone who is familiar with many in the community but reserved enough to be himself.

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

African American Life Post Depression[edit | edit source]

Housing[edit | edit source]

The Post Depression era was difficult for all of America but proved to have massive impacts on the African American community. As many gained financially and worked towards buying homes, Black people were disadvantaged and faced racial segregation in relation to obtaining loans. Redlining can be pinpointed as a main cause of this housing dicrimination among African Americans. Maps and other sources such as the HOLC ``Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) has typically focused on this New Deal housing agency’s invention of redlining” ( Michney and Winling 2019, 1) were created to aid the loan refusal of specific areas such as the Black Turpentine camps in Florida. Large companies would offer loans to those in Black communties and not outside of them to encourage the racial segregation in America. Due to the large establishment of home buying in predominantly Black communities low quality camps such as Turpentine camps formed. Turpentine camps were owned by large companies and held many African Americans who were expected to rely on the company for all needs including housing, food, community life, and more. They were paid to work within the company in exchange for housing but paid little and given high domestic household item prices. The Black community worked towards riding these housing segregation policies but were denied places in office and turned towards activism to negate these issues.

New Deal[edit | edit source]

With the new presidency came new policies to negate the negative effects of the economic failure in America, Post Depression. One of these new policies being, the New Deal created by Roosevelt. The New Deal worked to aid Black Americans economically, but failed to do so because Roosevelt still chose to support White centered ways like not “embrace efforts to ban the poll tax that prevented many African Americans from voting” (Klein 2018,1) . Yet, the New Deal did nothing to challenge the effects of the racial segregation in America and the housing issues the Black community faced. Instead groups and laws formed due to the New Deal denying African Americans of money needed to buy homes and maintain farming necessities. The New Deal created ways for racial segregation in housing and redlining issues.

Job Problems[edit | edit source]

After the country wide economic crash, African Americans suffered the most and as many said were “the last hired, and the first fired” (Klein 2018,1 ). Many Black people were forced into debt as their remaining jobs fell through. Those who had the necessary skills to work a job tended to have jobs that did not require much education or knowledge. Therefore, as the economy recovered and jobs emerged, Whites with little money and in need of jobs were given “entry level jobs” (Klein 2018,1) over those who were Black. With little to no money for more education the Black community was left with no job as their previously owned jobs were taken. The Black community worked towards fixation and formed groups to combat the Post Depression job loss. Protests including those that stated “ don't buy where you can't work” (Klein 2018,1) gave rise to Black improvement and power.

Politics[edit | edit source]
  • The Post Depression era created a massive distrust among African Americans and the government. They were treated as the bottom of the hierarchy and many chose not to vote and those who did were not always understanding of the political parties. The political party switch caused even more confusion for some, as the Black community switched from voting for the Republican Party to voting democratically. Although confusion was created, Roosevelt gained trust among the African American community gaining their vote in the election. African Americans felt as if his physical disadvantage was a connection to their disadvantage in life. In addition to this new creation of certainty with the Black community and Roosevelt, he appointed Black officials to office for the first time. What was referred to as “ the black cabinet” (Schickler 2013,1) was created and consisted of Black appointed officials in office who were not truly represented but were seen as a symbol of power and a step forward in America for African Americans. Due to this newly found connection between the Black community and the Democratic Party, shifts in the republican party took place as well. The Republican Party felt the need to gain support without Black people and acquired the support of White Southerners and conservatives. The Democratic Party and a large portion of America began to support the civil rights movement and more liberal ideals, while the Republican Party remained in support of segregationist ideals and conservative ways.  

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Faber, Jacob W. “We Built This: Consequences of New Deal Era Intervention in America’s Racial Geography.” American Sociological Review 85, no. 5 (October 2020): 739–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122420948464.
  • Hughes, Dan “The History of Florida Turpentine Camps.” Tribune. Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 15, 2004. https://www.heraldtribune.com/article/LK/20040315/news/605205566/SH.
  • Klein, Christopher. “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression AFFECTED African Americans.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, April 18, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans
  • Lange, Dorethea, San Francisco, California. After forty-four years of Republican administration, California gets a Democratic administration. (photograph) California: 1939 Jan, Library of Congress Photographs Division Washington 1939 Jan,  1 negative : nitrate ; 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches or smaller. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.fsaowi October 19 2021
  •  Michney, Todd M., and LaDale Winling. “New Perspectives on New Deal Housing Policy: Explicating and Mapping HOLC Loans to African Americans.” Journal of Urban History 46, no. 1 (January 2020): 150–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144218819429.
  • Schickler, Eric. “New Deal Liberalism and Racial Liberalism in the Mass Public, 1937–1968.” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (2013): 75–98. doi:10.1017/S1537592712003659.

Wolcott, Marion photographer,”Turpentine Camp. North Florida” (photograph) North Florida: 1939 Jan, Library of Congress Photographs Division Washington 1939 Jan,  1 negative : safety ; 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches or smaller. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.fsaowi October 19 2021