Question 1 (Document-Based Question): 55 minutes Suggested Reading period: 15 minutes Suggested writing period: 40 minutes

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Question 1 (Document-Based Question): 55 minutes

Suggested Reading period: 15 minutes

Suggested writing period: 40 minutes

Directions: Question 1 is based on the accompanying documents. The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise. You are advised to spend 15 minutes reading and planning and 45 minutes writing your answer.

Write your responses on the lined pages that follow the question.
In your response you should do the following:

  • State a relevant thesis that directly addresses all parts of the question.

  • Incorporate analysis of all, or all but one, of the documents into your argument.

  • Focus your analysis of each document on at least one of the following: intended audience, purpose, historical context, and/or point of view.

  • Support your argument with analysis of historical examples outside the documents

  • Connect historical phenomena relevant to your argument to broader events or processes.

  • Synthesize the elements above into a persuasive essay that extends your argument, connects it to a different historical context, or accounts for contradictory evidence on the topic.

1. Analyze the social and political effects that the Great Depression (1929-1941) had on American lives. Include analysis of American identity during this time period.

Document 1

Source: President Franklin D Roosevelt, Fireside Chat Address on the Banking Crisis, May 7, 1933
It is easy to see that the result of this course would have not only economic effects of a very serious nature but social results that might bring incalculable harm. Even before I was inaugurated I came to the conclusion that such a policy was too much to ask the American people to bear. It involved not only a further loss of homes, farms, savings and wages but also a loss of spiritual values -- the loss of that sense of security for the present and the future so necessary to the peace and contentment of the individual and of his family. When you destroy these things you will find it difficult to establish confidence of any sort in the future. It was clear that mere appeals from Washington for confidence and the mere lending of more money to shaky institutions could not stop this downward course. A prompt program applied as quickly as possible seemed to me not only justified but imperative to our national security. The Congress, and when I say Congress I mean the members of both political parties, fully understood this and gave me generous and intelligent support. The members of Congress realized that the methods of normal times had to be replaced in the emergency by measures which were suited to the serious and pressing requirements of the moment. There was no actual surrender of power, Congress still retained its constitutional authority and no one has the slightest desire to change the balance of these powers. The function of Congress is to decide what has to be done and to select the appropriate agency to carry out its will.

Document 2

Source: Caroline Bird, The Invisible Scar, Published 1966

Kentucky coal miners suffered perhaps the most. In Harlem County, there were whole towns whose people had not a cent of income. They lived on dandelions and blackberries. The women washed clothes in soapweed suds. Dysentery bloated the stomachs of starving babies. Children were reported so famished they were chewing up their own hands. Miners tried to plant vegetables, but they were often so hungry that they ate them before they were right On her first trip to the mountains, Eleanor Roosevelt saw a little boy trying to hide his pet rabbit. “He thinks we are not going to eat it,” his sister told her, “but we are.”

Document 3

Source: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Published 1939

THE moving, questing people were migrants now. Those families which had lived on a little piece of land, who had lived and died on forty acres, had eaten or starved on the produce of forty acres, had now the whole West to rove in. And they scampered about, looking for work; and the highways were streams of people, and the ditch banks were lines of people.
…And then suddenly the machines pushed them out and they swarmed on the highways. The movement changed them; the highways, the camps along the road, the fear of hunger and the hunger itself, changed them. The children without dinner changed them, the endless moving changed them. They were migrants. And the hostility changed them, welded them, united them-hostility that made the little towns group and arm as though to repel an invader, squads with pick handles, clerks and storekeepers with shotguns, guarding the world against their own people.


Document 4

Document 5

Source: Address delivered by Mrs. Ellen S. Woodward, Assistant Administrator in charge of Women's Activities, at the Democratic Women's Regional Conference for Southeastern States, March 19, 1936.

To begin with, let us face the undeniable fact that unemployment did exist and still exists. According to the conservative estimate of the Committee on Economic Security, in March 1933, at the end of four years of an economic toboggan slide, there were 15,071,000 workers in this country cut off from their jobs . . . Even if President Roosevelt's Administration succeeds in overcoming all the other causes of poverty and distress in the country, there still remains technological unemployment . . . The Women's Program, you must understand, is an integral part of the whole Works Program of the WPA. Throughout the history of its operation, a satisfying ratio has been maintained between the proportions of men and women employed. In relation to their numbers on the relief rolls. There has been no discrimination one way or the other. Probably the only distinction to be found is that training forms a more important part of our projects for women than is the case in projects for men . . . a large proportion of our unemployed women are without skills of any kind. We hope, by training, to equip them for the jobs which are arising with ever-increasing frequency these days in private industry.

Document 6

Source: Survey Graphic, September 1934

SIXTY FIVE thousand trade unionists during four July days staged on the shores of San Francisco Bay the second and most widespread general strike in US history. From the sixteenth through the nineteenth they carried out an extended maneuver which surprised, bewildered, gratified, or terrified and maddened the average citizen. To most Americans there is something reign about a general strike, and a bit ominous – like the “dole”, storm-troopers, socialists, communists, fascists, and a lot of other things that used to seem farther away than they do now. But to many on the Pacific Coast, experience has made the general strike at least real, however differently they may interpret it – as a splendid demonstration of the strength and “solidarity of labor,” a victory for the “real leaders of labor,” a “sell-out” by labor “fakirs”, a “strikers’ Dictatorship” or an “insurrection.”

Document 7

Source: Statement by President Roosevelt, August 31st, 1935

I have given my approval to S. J. Resolution 173—the neutrality legislation which passed the Congress last week. I have approved this joint resolution because it was intended as an expression of the fixed desire of the Government and the people of the United States to avoid any action which might involve us in war. The purpose is wholly excellent, and this joint resolution will to a considerable degree serve that end.

It provides for a licensing system for the control of carrying arms, et cetera, by American vessels; for the control of the use of American waters by foreign submarines; for the restriction of travel by American citizens on vessels of belligerent nations; and for the embargo of the export of arms, et cetera, to both belligerent nations . . . The policy of the Government is definitely committed to the maintenance of peace and the avoidance of any entanglements which would lead us into conflict.


Great Depression DBQ Project Notes
Prompt: Analyze the social and political effects that the Great Depression (1929-1941) had on American lives. Include analysis of American identity during this time period.

Possible thesis statements could include the following.

  • Politically, FDR’s New Deal expanded the role of the federal government during the Great Depression by providing federal aid and enacting relief programs. These reforms gave more power to group with fewer rights like women and the working class, which resulted in increased efforts for social change

  • During the time of the Great Depression, America experienced several changes in its political system that would increase government interference as well as an introduction of social changes which would result in the adjustment to a new, equality based, American Identity.

  • The Great Depression was a time that impacted America as a whole, and resulted in major political efforts from President Roosevelt that would alter the lives of the American people.

  • The Great Depression, the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world, brought many social and political changes to America and also modified the country’s nationalism which, up until the depression, was deep-rooted.

Analysis of Documents

As explained in the scoring notes, to earn full credit for analyzing documents, responses must include at least one of the following for all or all but one of the documents: intended audience, purpose, historical context, author’s point of view. Although examples of these elements are listed below, these examples of analysis must explicitly be used in support of a stated thesis or a relevant argument.

Document 1

Source: President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Fireside Chat Address on the Banking Crisis, May 7, 1933

  • Intended audience: General American public, anyone affected by the banking crisis throughout the depression.

  • Purpose: To explain to the American people how his administration would end the banking crisis. Fireside Chats in general gave news to the people in a comforting way.

  • Historical context: Growing waves of failures in the banking system played a significant role in the depression. On March 6, 1933, in order to keep the banking system in America from completely collapsing, the President called for a bank holiday. It was the opening step in his New Deal program.

  • The author’s point of view: In addressing the crisis, he attempts to sympathize with his audience while ensuring them of his plan. Roosevelt’s overall goal was to help the country recover from the depression. He figured taking the bank holiday was help the American people become more comfortable trusting the banks with their money.

Document 2

Source: Caroline Bird, The Invisible Scar, Published 1966

  • Intended audience: Readers of the book, people studying the Great Depression.

  • Purpose: To bring to life the immense hardships suffered by people all across America during the Great Depression especially those of the people that lived in Harlan County.

  • Historical context: Kentucky's Harlan County was just one of many areas the Depression hit hardest. Coal miners made so little income that their families were reduced to eating blackberries and, if necessary, the family pet to survive.

  • The author’s point of view: No point of view is clear, however the author displays the negative effects of the Great Depression without bias in portraying one example of the hardships suffered.

Document 3

Source: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Published 1939

  • Intended audience: Readers of the novel, educated public

  • Purpose: To comment about the lives of immigrants in America during the time of the Great Depression in a historical fiction piece of literature

  • Historical context: Mid 1930’s drought that crippled countless American farm families, Dust Bowl, impoverished camps called “Hoovervilles”, agricultural failure in parts of the southern Great Plains, (particularly throughout western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle), areas had been heavily over cultivated by wheat farmers in the years following World War I and were covered with millions of acres of loose topsoil, prejudice of migrant workers (especially in California), racists name calling with slang such as “Okie”

  • The author’s point of view: Critical of hardships plaguing American families during the early 1930s and the government action that was (or was not) being taken to help them

Document 4

Source: American Unemployment Chart 1927-1947

  • Intended audience: No specific audience

  • Purpose: To report on the levels of unemployment in America from the year 1927 to 1947

  • Historical context: Unemployment levels were the highest they had ever been in years 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935 - in the middle of the Great Depression, Works Project Administration (WPA) was a permanent jobs program that employed 8.5 million people from 1935 to 1943, Bank holiday, Hoover, believed that government should not directly intervene in the economy and that it did not have the responsibility to create jobs or provide economic relief for its citizens, 3 R’s (relief, recovery and reform)

  • The author’s point of view: No specific point of view - solely a data chart

Document 5

Source: Address delivered by Mrs. Ellen S. Woodward, Assistant Administrator in charge of Women's Activities, at the Democratic Women’s Regional Conference for Southeastern States, March 19, 1936

  • Purpose: To point out the only substantial difference between the women and the men in the workforce.

  • Historical context: FDR’s 2nd New Deal created-1935 (Wagner Act, WPA, Social Security), Highest point of the Great Depression has past (1932) Franklin D.  Roosevelt current president- rise in confidence is his way to create hope in the depression hope may lead to change. "Nothing to fear but fear itself", (21st Amendment) end of prohibition

  • The author’s point of view: Woman, effective advocate of economic security amongst children and women, highly involved in the Roosevelt administration, member of social security board for 8 years.

Document 6

Source: Survey Graphic, September, 1934

  • Intended audience: Readers of Survey Graphic magazine, general public

  • Purpose: To report on the workers’ strike in San Francisco and to analyze the different ways it was perceived by the public

  • Historical context: FDR’s First Hundred Days, creation of National Recovery Administration, National Industrial Recovery Act which set minimum wages and weekly hours for workers, Works Progress Administration, repeal of 21st Amendment. President Roosevelt is positive as he comforts the American People in his agreement that war must be avoided and thus licensing systems must be put in place to guarantee peaceful relations with other nations.

  • The author’s point of view: No strong point of view is apparent, article acknowledges differing views of strikes and unions (“demonstration of solidarity of labor” vs. “insurrection”) President Roosevelt is positive as he comforts the American People in his agreement that war must be avoided and thus licensing systems must be put in place to guarantee peaceful relations with other nations.

Document 7

Source: Statement by President Roosevelt, August 31st, 1935  

  • Intended audience: American citizens and other involved world leaders     

  • Purpose: Confirm that the plans of the American Public and Government are in accord in the effort to avoid war at all costs

  • Historical Context: At the height of the Great Depression, the U.S. government expressed its great concern over their ability to handle any conflict militarily and therefore precautions were made to avoid any confrontation that could have led to war.

  • The author’s point of view: President Roosevelt is positive as he comforts the American people in his agreement that war must be avoided and thus licensing systems must be put in place to guarantee peaceful relations with other nation

Analysis of outside examples to support thesis/argument

Possible examples of information not found in the documents that could be used to support the stated thesis or a relevant argument could include the following:

  • New Deal Programs: Relief, Recovery, Reform legislation to fix the problems

  • Role of woman: shifts in work place, place in society, etc.

  • Social Security Act

  • Wagner Act, rise in power of labor unions, collective bargaining, minimum wage

  • The first Red Scare and the growing fear of communism post-WWI

  • The Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities

  • Growing popularity of radio and mass media

  • Work Progress Administration providing employment opportunities for women and minority groups

  • Expanded role of government

  • “The Cycle of Disaster”

  • The Dust Bowl and its effect on Migration


Students can earn a point for contextualization by accurately and explicitly connecting historical phenomena relevant to the argument to broader historical events and/or processes. These historical phenomena may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Effect of the depression on women, how women’s role expanded after gaining the right to vote

  • How the Great Depression compared to other economic crises in American history

  • The isolationist policy that America adopted during the Depression and how it changed from the beginning to the end of the time period

  • Labor movements throughout American history, why they gain/lose power when they do

  • How much power the federal government has over individuals

  • The effects of Hoover’s Voluntarism/Rugged Individualism on the choice to support FDR.


Essays can earn the point for synthesis by crafting a persuasive and coherent essay. This can be accomplished providing a conclusion that extends or modifies the analysis in the essay, by using disparate and sometimes contradictory evidence from primary and/or secondary sources to craft a coherent argument, or by connecting to another historical period or context. Examples could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Linking to Progressive Era in terms of liberal government, political reform, gains for labor unions

  • How WWII went on to extend the changes in American society sparked by the Depression, and ensured another would not occur

  • How the New Deal would provide minor advances toward the treatment of minorities which would connect to the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Linking the Great Migration of minorities to Northern cities to the “white flight” to the suburbs of the 1950s

  • Linking the Great Depression to previous smaller economic panics

Cricket Cary-Green

Claire Skelley

Adriana Romero

Cynthia Arteaga

Jacob Weiner

Great Depression DBQ: Identity

    During WWI and the 1920’s, the American economy was booming. However, after the stock market crash of 1929, the economy spiraled into the most severe depression the country had ever known. This not only affected the economy, but nearly every aspect of American life and identity. Previously, America saw itself as a land of freedom and opportunity, but the Great Depression forced it, for a time, to reevaluate this perception of itself. Politically, FDR’s New Deal expanded the role of the federal government during the Great Depression by providing federal aid and enacting relief programs. These reforms gave more power to group with fewer rights like women and the working class, which resulted in increased efforts for social change.

    During the 1930’s, the Great Depression dominated American politics, which in turn affected American identity. The U.S. withdrew from global affairs and adopted an isolationist policy so the government could focus on domestic rehabilitation and reform, as demonstrated by President Roosevelt’s support of the Neutrality Acts (Doc 7). Isolationism was widely supported during this time, and many, such as Charles Lindbergh, founder of the America First Committee, spoke out in favor of neutrality once WWII broke out. Because of its internal problems, America could no longer take on the “champion of democracy” role that it adopted in WWI. America was primarily characterized by the extreme poverty of its citizens, and the poverty was certainly extreme, as shown in the Caroline Bird’s The Invisible Scar, a description of life in rural Harlan County, Kentucky during the Depression (Doc 2). The severity of the poverty described was not unique to Harlan County, as the entire country was devastated by the Depression. Bird’s reflection on the time period focused primarily on the poverty and suffering that people faced because of the Depression, which indicates how much these hardships affected the lives of Americans at the time. Some Americans, such as migrant workers, were also less inclined to feel patriotic because of the hostility that they faced from employers and even their own communities during the Depression (Doc 3). Migrants, or “Okies,” were forced to move West because of the Dust Bowl and often dealt with low wages, employment and housing discrimination, and terrible living conditions, such as Hoovervilles and shantytowns. The adversity that these migrant workers faced, and the fact that they were not greatly assisted by New Deal programs like the industrial workers, was not conducive of patriotic sentiment. Overall, the Great Depression decreased the American patriotism that was so strong during and immediately after WWI, as the economic hardship became the dominating characteristic of American life.

    It was not the economic decline itself, but the government’s response to it that had the greatest effect on the expansion of the federal government during the Great Depression. In President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chat” about his response to the banking crisis, he asserts that even though he took direct executive action, it remained constitutional and he had the support of Congress (Doc 1). In previous years, it is unlikely that FDR would have had congressional support, but the emergency of the Depression allowed him to expand the role of the executive branch to fit the necessity of a strong American leader, which in this case meant declaring a Bank Holiday, passing the Emergency Banking Act, and creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which ensured that people would not lose all of their money in case of bank failure, to restore American faith in the banking system. The extremely high unemployment levels also forced FDR to act. In 1933 when Roosevelt took office, the unemployment level was at an all time high, about 25% (Doc 4). However, he was able to decrease it over the next few years with government programs such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, both of which created jobs for the American people. The amount and the effect of all the legislation passed under FDR was unparalleled, and it caused an expansion of the government’s role in people’s lives.

    The hardships of the Great Depression resulted in an increase in the calls for social reform, which was also aided by FDR’s New Deal legislation. Ellen S. Woodward commended the Women’s Program of the Works Progress Administration at the Democratic Women’s Regional Conference for Southeastern States, but also used this commendation for her primary purpose: to point out the lack of women’s training programs and call for further change in that area, as it would further decrease unemployment (Doc 5). While women were nowhere near equal during the 1930s, there were certain advances in their role in both the family and society. Because male dominated industries such as manufacturing were hardest hit by the Depression, more men lost their jobs than women, meaning more women were forced to work to provide for their families. The overall number of working women actually increased during the Depression. This economic advancement laid the foundation for the entrance of many more women into the workforce during WWII, thus increasing their economic power. Another group that got louder in terms of their protests for their rights was the working class. The magazine Survey Graphic shined light on a 1934 strike in San Francisco, at that point the largest in history (Doc 6). During the Great Depression, labor unions and workers’ rights had increased power because of programs like the National Industrial Recovery Act, which set minimum wages and hours for workers. This increased the influence of workers because they no longer just had the power of collective bargaining, they also had laws to protect them and their rights. Legislation passed during FDR

    The Great Depression was different from all of the other smaller economic depressions that preceded it because none of them resulted in huge political and social changes like the Great Depression did. Events such as the Panic of 1893 did not prompt as much of a reaction from the federal government or from the American people because it was not seen as necessary to have programs like the New Deal like it was during the Depression simply because the economic effects of the Depression were the most severe and most widespread in history. Previous economic panics had little to no effect on American identity and patriotism, on foreign policy, they prompted no drastic change in the role of the government or lasting effect on the American people, they were overall relatively unimportant, while the Great Depression was one of the defining events in American history.

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