Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Spring/105/Section 87/Rosa Lee Johnson

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Biography[edit | edit source]

Family[edit | edit source]

Rosa Lee Johnson was an African American woman that lived her adult life between the years 1920s and 1950s in the United States. She lived her life during the year of the Great Depression in the United States. Rosa was born in the south, Waycross, Georgia, a member of a family of sixteen children. Her dad was a turpentine black so he stayed in the woods most of the time. They did not have much money and her family had to move to Camila, Georgia to keep working, now as farmers in a field. Eventually, she had to move to where she worked as a cooker with not a lot of money. She went to school for a few years, until the 4th grade of elementary school. She eventually got married to her first husband when she was 12 or 13 years old. A few years after they got marry, her husband died but they got a little farm that her husband worked on before he passed out. When she became a widow she moved to Ozark and got married again. Even though her dad and husband worked in the field, she never did, so when she moved to Ozark she got a job as a maid in a white house family. She worked as a cooker and as a maid for the family.

Her life as a worker for the family[edit | edit source]

She woke up every day at 5:30 am. She was the first to be awake so she had to make coffee and cook breakfast and get things ready, like backpacks and lunches for the kids, so the two kids could go to school. Then she was also in charge of washing the dishes that the family used the night before and the ones that they used that morning. She lived in the property of the family that she worked for but in the backyard. She lived in a four-room frame house with six other people. She had a room for her but she had to share it with her son and nephew. They did not live there for free, besides the work that they did in the house, they had to pay rent to the family. As for amenities they did not have much in their house. They did not have hydrant water because the rent would be more expensive. They had to pay $4 dollar per month for rent. They also did not have electricity. She said that they did not need it that much because during the winter the weather was not that cold and during summer they had enough light in their house.

Social Context[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression in the United States started in 1929 and lasted until the end of the 30s prior to the Second War. During this period 13 million workers where unemployed or “not wanted” in the production process. Thousands of banks, thousands of business, and millions of farmers fell into bankruptcy, everyone suffered lost in wealth and income.

The Great Depression started in the United States when the prices in the stuck market in October of 1929. Between 1929 and 1932 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell about 15%. If we compare this to recent years, during 2008 and 2009 the GDP fell less that 1%. A lot of people lost their properties and money because of banks going to bankruptcy and the fell in prices. There modern mainstream explanation about what caused the Great Depression are that during this years there was an insufficient demand from the private sector and insufficient spending. The second reason is that there was a money supply reduction and as consequence a banking crisis.

African Americans During the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

Even before the Great Depression started, African American people already suffered inequality and disadvantage in the work force. With the years to come, their situation was only getting worst. They were the first to be laid off of their jobs, and they suffered from an unemployment rate two or three times that of whites. With the programs that the government was implementing for people in a hard situation during this years, people of color often received less aid than whites, and some charitable organizations even excluded Blacks from their kitchens.

African American Women Jobs[edit | edit source]

African American women participated more often in the paid workforce than white women during this time, which lead to more African American families being affected when the workforce fell because of the depression the country was going to.

Most women opted to work as maids for wealthy families because it was a job where money was more secure than in the work force during this years. Others migrated from the south to the global north to look for more job opportunities.

References[edit | edit source]

Lynch, H. (n.d.). African American life during the Great depression and the New Deal. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/African-American/African-American-life-during-the-Great-Depression-and-the-New-Deal

Sennholz, H. (1969, October 01). The great Depression. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://fee.org/articles/the-great-depression/

Ward, S. (2018). Women and W omen and Work: African American W ork: African American Women in Depr omen in Depression Er ession Era America. Retrieved April 6, 2021, from https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3734&context=gc_etds