Remembering the Great Depression in the Rural South

Kenneth J. Bindas

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"An outstanding collection . . . Engaging and readable as well as cogently argued and well researched. The analysis of the 'collective consciousness' produced by the experience of the Great Depression is both original and useful."--Melissa Walker, Converse College

"A vivid portrait of how rural Southerners responded to the Great Depression and the New Deal . . . strikes a balance between letting the voices speak for themselves . . . and placing these voices within a coherent understanding of the existing historical literature of the 1930s."--Charles C. Bolton, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, formerly of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, University of Southern Mississippi

With this collection of more than 600 oral histories recalling the Great Depression, Bindas provides a detailed, personal chronicle of the 1930s from a rural Southern perspective and captures a historical era and its meaning. The Depression altered the basic structure of American society and changed the way government, business, and the American people interacted. Bindas finds his narrators saw the federal government as an agent of positive change. Though their stories reflect the general despair of the era, they also reveal the hope they found through the New Deal and their determination, after the Depression, to "create a country where security . . . was paramount."

Collected over a period of four years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, these reminiscences from people in rural Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee are primarily concerned with lessons learned. Looking back on their youth, the narrators explore how the Depression defined their lives and their experiences, from subsistence and government assistance, to food and home life, fear and privation. Revealing a common consciousness among people who witnessed profound change and endured, these stories underscore the meaning of collective memory. Their simple tales form the larger story of how the American people continued to rely on the individualistic ethos even as they adopted and accepted the new ideology of social cooperation. Illustrated with Farm Security Administration (FSA) black and white photographs, this book is a vital testament to survivors of the Depression. Students and scholars of both the 1930s and oral history methodology will welcome this volume.

Kenneth J. Bindas is professor of history at Kent State University.

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" Bindas's work gives form to the memories that have created and re-created the idea of the Depression in the rural South."
--The Alabama Review

" Bindas skillfully demonstrates that the Depression experience involved not just privation and crisis, but a distinct "collective consciousness" that left an enduring imprint on those who came of age during the hard years of the 1930s."

" Privileges the voices of the interviewees, giving the reader a strong sense of life during the Great Depression."
--The Journal of Southern History

"Offers thoughtful observations about historical memory, the construction of meaning, authentic voices, and collective consciousness. This book will give you pause as you consider some of the problems and possibilities of oral history."
--Agricultural History

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