To What Extent Was Roosevelt’s Presidency a Disappointment for Black Americans?

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Franklin Roosevelt’s appointment as president of the United States of America, and the implementation of his New Deal, saw a significant improvement from the grim depression that began in 1929. However, in terms of improving the situation of black civil rights, Roosevelt could only push the issue to a certain extent. The Great Depression plunged the USA into a huge economic and social crisis. The fall in production of goods and services led to a huge rise in unemployment, which were noteworthy factors that affected minority groups. It is not surprising that, in these circumstances, African Americans were the most adversely affected in the competition for jobs, with about 50% being unemployed only in the South. Roosevelt made it clear that he wanted to ‘wage war poverty and unemployment’, his New Deal was a series of measures and policies to bring about recovery and reform. This obviously seemed like an advantage to the whole population, which is why blacks began to vote for Roosevelt’s party in the first place, in hope that his policies would lead to an improvement of their situation. However, whether or not it helped black Americans is debatable. While trying to decrease unemployment, Roosevelt developed job creation schemes, yet these continued to be discriminatory in practice. This discrimination existed because white workers gained preferential treatment; for example, the minimum wage rates for black workers were lower than for whites. Furthermore, even by the end of the 1930s, lynching was not regarded as a crime and perpetrators went unpunished. Conversely, it would not be right to say that during Roosevelt’s time in office, the plight of African-Americans remained acute because he did not care or because he was racist. His New Deal Coalition tied together the strangest of bedfellows; held together by tradition, electoral, and economic necessity.
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