Important Message about LEARN NC

LEARN NC is evaluating its role in the current online education environment as it relates directly to the mission of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education (UNC-CH SOE). We plan to look at our ability to facilitate the transmission of the best research coming out of UNC-CH SOE and other campus partners to support classroom teachers across North Carolina. We will begin by evaluating our existing faculty and student involvement with various NC public schools to determine what might be useful to share with you.

Don’t worry! The lesson plans, articles, and textbooks you use and love aren’t going away. They are simply being moved into the new LEARN NC Digital Archive. While we are moving away from a focus on publishing, we know it’s important that educators have access to these kinds of resources. These resources will be preserved on our website for the foreseeable future. That said, we’re directing our resources into our newest efforts, so we won’t be adding to the archive or updating its contents. This means that as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study changes in the future, we won’t be re-aligning resources. Our full-text and tag searches should make it possible for you to find exactly what you need, regardless of standards alignment.

crowd outside a bank

A crowd gathers outside New York’s American Union Bank during a bank run in 1931.

The decade known as the “Roaring Twenties” was followed by a decade in which a quarter of American workers were jobless. Most Americans believed the economic catastrophe known as the “Great Depression” had begun in 1929 with the crash of the nation’s stock market, but destructive forces had been gathering for years.

Why did the Great Depression occur, and why was it so bad? It’s complicated — and economists and historians disagree on most of the details. A few things are clear, though. Not everyone shared in the prosperity of the 1920s. As a result, there weren’t enough people with money to buy everything manufacturers were producing. Much of that decade’s prosperity was built on borrowing, speculation, and new, risky kinds of investments. When the bottom fell out, the government did too little — or did the wrong kinds of things, and made the economy worse. The optimism of the 1920s was replaced with deep pessimism — a pessimism that made recovery extremely difficult, because recovery required new spending and investment.

In this chapter, you’ll read a few different perspectives on the causes and impact of the Great Depression and on how Franklin Roosevelt’s administration tried to restore prosperity.