Hard Times: An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression
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First published in 1970, Studs Terkel’s bestselling Hard Times has been called “a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit” (Saturday Review) and “an invaluable record” (The New York Times). With his trademark grace and compassion, Terkel evokes a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were destitute: politicians, businessmen, artists and writers, racketeers, speakeasy operators, strikers, impoverished farmers, people who were just kids, and those who remember losing a fortune.
Now, in a handsome new illustrated edition, a selection of Studs’s unforgettable interviews are complemented by images from another rich documentary trove of the Depression experience: Farm Security Administration photographs from the Library of Congress. Interspersed throughout the text of Hard Times, these breathtaking photographs by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Jack Delano, and others expand the human scope of the voices captured in the book, adding a new dimension to Terkel’s incomparable volume. Hard Times is the perfect introduction to Terkel’s work for new readers, as well as a beautiful new addition to any Terkel library.
relief. It’s an experience I don’t want anybody to go through. It comes as close to crucifixion as . . . You sit in an auditorium and are given a number. The interview was utterly ridiculous and mortifying. In the middle of mine, a more dramatic guy than I dived from the second floor stairway, headfirst, to demonstrate he was gonna get on relief even if he had to go to the hospital to do it. There were questions like: Who are your friends? Where have you been living? Where’s your family? I had
Administration) camp. Dorothea Lange, 1939 LC-DIG-fsa-8b35692 Page 261 Scene along Bathgate Avenue in the Bronx, New York, a section from which many of the New Jersey homesteaders have come Arthur Rothstein, 1936 LC-DIG-fsa-8b28421 Page 269 A scene at the Fulton fish market, New York City Gordon Parks, 1943 LC-USW3-028722-E Page 276 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee Marion Post Wolcott, 1939 LC-USZ62-130116 Page 280 Fascism and Uncle Sam signs on boxcar, Crystal City, Texas
yes. There would be immediate government action, of course. A moratorium. But in panic, people sell regardless of worth. Today you’ve got twenty-odd million stockholders owning stock. At that time you had probably a million and a half. You could have a sharper decline now than you had in 1929. Most of the net worth of people today is in values. They haven’t got it in cash. In a panic, values go down regardless of worth. A house worth $30,000, the minute you have a panic, isn’t worth anything.
Things were S.S.&G.—Sweet, Simple and Girlish.” Hers was a rural Missouri childhood and a Kansas City adolescence. When she arrived at the age to be giggly, her father, a West Point graduate, said, “the giggly girl causes grief.” She was raised according to the old homilies: Virtue triumphant, Honesty prevailing. . . . “It poorly prepared us, who grew up in this innocent way, for the thirties. “Suddenly, all the copybook maxims were turned backwards. How could it be that a man who had been at
rather than society. True, there were hunger marches and protestations to City Hall and Washington, but the millions experienced a private kind of shame when the pink slip came. No matter that others suffered the same fate, the innervoice whispered, “I’m a failure.” True, there was a sharing among many of the dispossessed, but, at close quarters, frustration became, at times, violence, and violence turned inward. Thus, sons and fathers fell away, one from the other. And the mother, seeking work,