Lesson Plan: Overview

The Great Depression in South Carolina

Grade Level: 3rd

Academic Standards

Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Indicator 3-5.5 Explain the effects of the Great Depression and the New Deal on daily life in South Carolina, including the widespread poverty and unemployment and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Social Studies Literacy Elements
L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts
Essential Questions
What was life like in South Carolina during the Great Depression?

Historical Background Notes

Lesson 1

On October 24, 1929 the stock market was the last thing many South Carolinians had on their mind.  It was Big Thursday the football game between Clemson College and the University of South Carolina.  There were fourteen thousand people watching the game at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia to see Clemson break a tie and win.  (Edgar, 1998, 498)

It took a few days for the news of the stock market crash to sink in, but when it did Big Thursday also was Black Thursday.  By June 1932 cotton dropped to fifty-one cents a pound the lowest it had been since 1894.  The per capita income for South Carolinians dropped from two hundred sixty-one dollars in 1929 to one hundred fifty-one dollars in 1933.  (Edgar, 1998, 499)

Major financial institutions began to go under.  In 1931 People’s State Bank and its forty-four branches closed.  State and local governments seemed unwilling or unable to act.  In 1931 Charleston was on the brink of bankruptcy.  Greenville cut taxes, Florence eliminated jobs, and Columbia’s mayor said there was no economic crisis and blocked a municipal employment agency. (Edgar, 1998, 499)

By 1936 South Carolina was one of six states without old-age pensions, one of fourteen without assistance for the blind, and one of two with no aid for dependent children.  Local agencies could not cope with the seriousness of this crisis.  There were seventeen counties in South Carolina that had an unemployment rate greater than thirty percent.  By the year 1932 charities in Columbia were serving more than seven hundred thousand free meals a year.  In rural South Carolina people were dying from hunger, and in Columbia many were close to starvation. (Edgar, 1998, 500)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the presidential election of 1932.  The most number of votes for FDR came from South Carolina.  As a result of the New Deal many South Carolinians were saved from starvation.  The school lunch program made a big difference for children whose families could not feed them everyday.  The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs for young men. 

The Great Depression had an enormous effect on the people of South Carolina.  Many people were without jobs and unable to buy food.  As a result of this situation many South Carolinians felt FDR’s New Deal was their chance to find work and feed their families.  It provided many with the opportunity for a new beginning.

Lesson 2

The stock market crash of October 1929 was like an earthquake that cracked across the United States. (Kennedy, 2005, 10)  As the decade of the Great Depression opened the already struggling farmers would be the hardest hit victims.  During the 1920’s the South was the nation’s most rural region.  Southerners planted and picked their traditional crops of cotton, tobacco, rice, or sugarcane. (Kennedy, 2005, 18)  Cotton slumped from thirty-five cents per pound to sixteen cents in 1920.  Corn sank from $1.50 per bushel to fifty-two cents. (Kennedy, 2005, 17)

 The education system during the Great Depression was also affected.  Rural, southern, and black schools were already the most poorly funded and felt the effects the most.  By 1934 rural poverty had closed more than 20,000 schools.  These were hard times for schools, families, and the young.  The birth rate and grade school enrollments fell as well. (Cohen, 2002, 91)

During this time both Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband received unprecedented amounts of mail from Americans between 1933 and 1940.  The public sent FDR more than three times the mail of any previous president.  Mrs. Roosevelt received more than 300,000 pieces of mail during her first year in the White House.  What made the letters unique were their origins and character.  The majority of the letters were written from the working class and wrote asking for aid rather than to voice their opinion. (Cohen, 2002, 5)

In one letter a ten year old girl asks for a bus to get to school.  She says they have to walk across a river and they almost freeze because they do not have good clothes.  (Cohen, 2002, 97)  In many other letters students are requesting money for tuition to either attend college or grade school.  In one letter a girl asked for clothes to wear to school.  She said any clothes Mrs. Roosevelt did not wear would be greatly appreciated.  She also asked that her letter not be put in the newspaper. (Cohen, 2002, 103)  Another letter states how much a family likes Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal. (Cohen, 2002, 104)

This time in our history affected many people, whether it was in farming or education.  Even children were so affected they took the time to write letters to President Roosevelt and the First Lady.  The letters were not voicing an opinion or blaming anyone for the Great Depression, but simply asking for help.  Through the letters it shows even during this dark time some Americans were hopeful and were not giving up.  They were trying to find ways to pay for school and get the things they needed.  Some children wrote saying how their parents liked Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  This was something that gave them hope, and showed they had a President who cared.


Primary Sources
Lesson 1

“A Sharecropper Boy.”  Photograph.  As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948, Constance B Schulz, editor. Columbia:  The University of South Carolina Press,1992.


“The Wife and Mother of a Sharecropper.”  Photograph.  As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948, Constance B Schulz, editor. Columbia:  The University of South Carolina Press, 1992.


“The Home of A Negro.”  Photograph.  As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948, Constance B Schulz, editor.  Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 1992.  Original in Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

“The Brown Family in Front of Their Home.”  Photograph.  As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948, Constance B Schulz, editor.  Columbia:  The University of South Carolina Press, 1992.
Lesson 2
Bodie, Idella.  Carolina Girl:  A Writer’s Beginning.  Orangeburg: Sandlapper Publisher, 1998.
Secondary Sources
Lesson 1

Walker, Joel and Donald O. Stewart.  The South Carolina Adventure.  Salt Lake City: Gibbes Smith, 2005.


Edgar,Walter.  South Carolina: A History.  Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Lesson 2

Cohen, Robert.  Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:  Letters from Children of the Great Depression.  Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Kennedy, David M.  Freedom From Fear.  New York: Oxford University Press Inc.  2005.
Materials Needed
Lesson 1
Photo Analysis Worksheet
Venn Diagram
Lesson 2
Select pages from Idella Bodie's Carolina Girl
Written Document Analysis Worksheet
Proofreading Marks Sheet

Lesson Plans

Lesson 1
1. Inform students they will analyze photographs to begin learning about a period in history known as The Great Depression.  If your students have not had practice analyzing photographs have them bring in photos from home.  Action shots work best like vacations, birthday parties, not portraits.  Have students work in small groups and pass out photos.  Be sure they are not using their own.  Have groups gather as much information they can from the photo.  Share findings.  Inform students one way historians learn about history is by studying photographs.  In this lesson they will analyze photographs taken during The Great Depression. 
2. Show students the photo analysis sheet.  Tell them they will record their observations on this sheet.  Pass it out and go through sheet.  Discuss, as a review, what an inference is.  Remind them they use this word in science and reading. 
3. Review why we use photographs in history.  Students should recall it teaches us things about the past, how people lived, and what life was life then. 
4. Pass out the four photographs to your groups.  If you would like to have students work in groups of two simply make multiple copies of photographs.
5. Assign a recorder for each group.
6. Have students begin analyzing their photograph and recorder records observations on photo analysis sheet.
7. Allow 20-30 minutes for students to analyze photographs.
8. Share photographs and inferences from photo analysis worksheet.
9. Using chart paper have students create a list of what life might have been like during this period using what they observed in photograph.  List should include ideas about not having a lot of money by the clothes they wore, no shoes, types of homes people lived in.
10. Have students independently complete a Venn Diagram comparing what life was like for these people compared to what life is like for them.
11. Collect Venn Diagrams and photo analysis worksheets.
Lesson 2
1. Have students work in groups of two.  They will be given selected pieces out of Carolina girl by Idella Bodie.  As a team they will look through the piece and complete the written document analysis worksheet.  They will have some background about what life was like during the Great Depression because this will be completed after the analysis of the photographs taken during the Great Depression.
2. Discuss and briefly explain the parts of the Written Analysis Worksheet.  Write the name of the author on the board and let the students fill it in for number three on the sheet.  Give general examples of responses for letters A through D. 
3. Allow students 20-30 minutes to examine written document and complete the sheet. Compare findings with the class.  This should take about ten minutes.
4. Create a class Venn diagram comparing what it was like for this girl growing up in South Carolina during the Great Depression to what it is like for the students growing up in South Carolina in 2007.
5. Inform students they will now write a journal entry from the perspective of a child growing up during the Great Depression. Have them think about the things that were different during that time, and what life would have been like.  They can also reflect on the photographs they analyzed during the first lesson.
6. Allow students time to write a rough draft of their journal entry.  Once most students are finished have them exchange papers with a classmate.
7. Have students peer edit each other’s papers using Proofreading Marks (included in lesson).  Once their paper has been edited by a classmate they may begin their final copy.  I usually allow one session for the rough draft.  Then the next day they switch papers, edit, and begin their final copy.  Completing all in one day is often too much for third graders.
8. Collect final copy and use for an assessment.

Student Assessments

Lesson 1
Photo Analysis Worksheet- When assessing look for the ideas that the people did not have a lot of money because of the homes they lived in, type of clothing worn, not wearing any shoes.
Venn Diagram- Use to assess the idea that we have a lot of material things people at that time did not, differences in homes, clothing.
Lesson 2
Written Analysis Worksheet
Journal Entry


Heather Meyers
Midlands Institute