The Great Depression and World War II

New Deal programs offered some relief from the Great Depression, putting people to work building parks, highways, and public buildings, and helping to improve farmland and agricultural practices.

The legacy of these programs can be seen across today’s Texas. Workers built bridges, dams, and roads. They planted trees to help control erosion and promoted modern farming techniques. In state parks, Civilian Conservation Corps workers created new infrastructure: cabins, visitor centers, the Indian Lodge at Fort Davis, and a reconstructed mission in Goliad.

For rural Texans, the most important New Deal projects focused on improving the land and daily life. Farmers gathered to learn about soil conservation and modern planting techniques. Workers planted trees to control erosion. And newly-built dams controlled floods and provided electricity – something that was unavailable in many areas until well into the 1930s. For people who lived without electricity, daily life had changed little since the 1800s. Food was kept in ice boxes, not much help against the summer heat. Water was pumped from the ground or carried from springs. Clothes were washed by hand, in washtubs heated over open fires.

For many Tejanos and African Americans, the Depression brought new challenges. Job opportunities were limited, schools for Hispanic and black students were inferior and in many parts of the state the threat of violent attacks against blacks and Latinos remained very real. The era also brought a new push for change. Organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) brought the first legal challenges to segregation in Texas. They fought to improve access to education and end race-based violence.

The 1936 Texas Centennial helped the state’s economy and mood. The main event was a World’s Fair held at the Texas State Fair Grounds in Dallas. The event brought attention to Texas as a place to vacation and do business.

Source: The Great Depression and World War II
Courtesy Texas Our Texas, Texas PBS

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