Georgia History 101
Turmoil would be the best word to describe 1930's Georgia, and most
of the turmoil was right outside the farmhouse door. Beset by serious
problems from 1920 on, the Great Depression only made the plight of
the farmer worse. Falling cotton and tobacco prices, reductions in workforce
thanks to the competition from cities, and poor land-use stratagies
wrecked havoc on the sector that had supported the Georgia economy since
the time of Oglethorpe. These
three things combined to chase Georgians from the fields in record numbers.
At the end of the ten-year period ending in 1940, less than one-third
of all Georgia workers were employed in agriculture.
Economically, urban Georgians suffered less during the Great Depression
than their counterparts to the North and West. One reason they had been
insulated was the strong industrial base that had only recently begun
to form. Coupled with low-cost labor and a dedicated workforce (remember,
many had only recently come from farms and did not have the problems
of workers in other parts of the country), large Georgia cities did
as well as can be expected during this decade.
Richard B. Russell served a single term as governor before he was tapped
to go to Washington D. C. to serve as Senator. Eugene Talmadge was elected
on a "friend of the farmer" platform that included the now
standard fare of "keeping the negro in his place." Talmadge
ran into an unexpected buzz-saw on the race issue not too long into
the start of his term, the President of the United States.
One of the first relief projects instituted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was the Civilian Conservation
Corps. Talmadge wanted the relief money
to go only to white families, so he excluded blacks by listing them
as employed, in spite of the fact that unemployment rates among blacks
were twice those among whites. FDR told Talmadge to begin hiring blacks
for the CCC. Talmadge refused the President's request. Roosevelt told
him that if he didn't begin hiring blacks for the CCC he would not get
a "single penny" of the relief money slated for his state.
FDR had Talmadge. Although black CCC camps were disbanded within two
years (whites did not like their presence), the damage had been done
between Roosevelt and Talmadge. In 1934 FDR refused to let Georgia disburse
its own relief funds.
Roosevelt's strong stance on employing blacks in the CCC shocked most
Georgians into realizing that life in the United States may be different
than life in Georgia and the other states of the old South. It really
didn't matter though, since the politicians were solidly pro-segregation,
thanks to the laws that made it difficult for blacks to vote in the
state. Still, they realized that the situation between Talmadge and
Roosevelt made it difficult for the Georgia governor to be effective,
and Roosevelt was well-liked in Georgia because of his frequent trips
to Warm Springs.
In 1936 Talmadge ran unsucessfully against Senator Russell, who defended
FDR and his programs. Talmadge was soundly defeated. Talmadge became
more bitter in his rhetoric over the next five years, but suddenly,
Gene Talmadge did not matter anymore. The United States was at war
with Germany and Japan. The Georgia "war machine" began
to crank up at an astonishing rate.
Our Georgia History: History 101 index
Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided