Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
The Great Depression Unit

Lesson 3: A Helping Hand

1. Background information for teachers:


Governor Benjamin M. Miller was elected in 1930 pledging to restore economy in state government. Renowned for his personal frugality and conservatism (he had only two cars in his inaugural "parade"), his belief in the limited role of government in the lives of its citizens was tested by the hard economic circumstances of the Great Depression. Most Alabamians at the outset of his term in 1931 doubtlessly shared his views. But by that time community and business leaders were becoming increasingly aware that the economic problems were not going to go away without some form of government leadership. As the winter of 1931-32 approached, concern was mounting over the continuing availability of food in the season when home gardens would not be producing. Spokesmen for rural, small-town Alabama were among those who sought to convince state government to take action to slow the continuing economic slide.


2. Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:


1. Compare and contrast living standards of the Great Depression era with those of today.

2. Define the role of a civic organization in a community.

3. Discuss the importance of seasonal work upon the economic status of a community.


3. Suggested Lesson:


1. Make copies of the Elba Lions Club telegram.

2. Provide the students with a copy of the telegram.

3. Ask students the following questions:


a. What is a civic group? What kinds of services do these groups perform for cities?

b. What kinds of occupations do you think the men of the Elba Lions Club had?

c. Why do you believe these men were concerned about the unemployed particularly in the winter months? How would winter unemployment affect the economic balance of the towns and cities of Alabama? What are some of the possibilities for employment in other times of the year?



Document 1: Western Union Telegram: Elba Lions Club, Governor B.M. Miller, Administrative files, SG19952, folder 20, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.