The U.S. economy collapsed in late 1929, triggering a national crisis. Alabama’s rural residents had weathered hardship for decades. Now urban workers and professionals also faced economic ruin. Businesses closed, factories shut down, and banks failed. Unemployment soared. Cotton prices and farm income fell to record lows. Half of the state’s mines and mills closed. Many Alabamians struggled just to survive.
The Depression affected people regardless of race, class, or occupation. As local aid efforts failed and suffering deepened, people turned to the state and federal governments for help.
“Issue a proclamation to all individuals, partnerships, corporations, and municipalities of Alabama requesting that no employee be dismissed from employment but instead… that wages be cut…or days be reduced.” Elba Lions Club to Governor Benjamin Miller, September 5, 1931
“Hundreds of people are starving, slowly starving in my district and in many other parts of the country. The situation is desperate.” Congressman George Huddleston of Birmingham, January 1932
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the New Deal, a series of federal relief, recovery, and reform measures. The programs provided jobs and assistance for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians and gave the state new roads, buildings, and recreational areas. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) transformed north Alabama through the damming of rivers and the generation of electricity made available to homes, farms, schools, and new industries throughout the region.
Many idolized Roosevelt as a result. Detractors believed that New Deal programs were too costly and an intrusion of the federal government into daily life.
Alabama’s congressional delegation was one of the most influential of any state. Chairs of key committees, they championed New Deal programs to bring federal funds to Alabama and improve conditions at home.
In the fall of 1939, linemen brought electricity to residents of rural Marshall County after construction of the Guntersville Dam and its hydroelectric plant.
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