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The Great Depression and the Arts
A Unit of Study for Grades 8-12

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Migrant Mother, by Dorothea Lange
Poster announcing formation of educational study groups for workers at the Henry Street Settlement, New York City. Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress).

Evaluation Activities

The purpose of these concluding activities is to draw the lessons in this unit together and provide students an opportunity to synthesize the diverse materials and activities.

You may use these activities at different stages in the unit or have students select one of the activities at the beginning of the unit and gather data to develop this culminating activity during the process of the lessons.

Individual Essays

Assign one of the following essays or allow students to choose from these or other essay topics. The essay could be done in class or as a take-home essay.

  1. "Assess the pros and cons of government sponsored programs in the arts."
  2. "Evaluate the government's role in promoting artistic expression."
  3. Agree or Disagree with the following statement: "The New Deal's efforts to help people, the 'one-third of a nation' that were ill-nourished, ill-clad, and ill-housed, was necessary due to the emergency needs caused by the Great Depression; but should not be continued in times of prosperity."

Group Work

  1. Have students work in pairs and assign one to assume the role of a speech writer for Franklin Roosevelt and the other a vocal opponent of the Roosevelt administration. Each student prepares a speech focusing on the role of government in promoting artistic expression as a response the Great Depression. The students pairs should work closely together to write speeches which deal with the issue in a point/counterpoint approach. This activity would require in-class time for students to work together.

  2. Conduct a "Meeting of the Minds" or "Cross-Fire" activity in which students assume the roles of individuals from different backgrounds during the Depression era. Students on the panel could assume the roles of persons such as Herbert Hoover, John Steinbeck, Andrew Mellon, Dorothea Lange, Harry Hopkins, Huey Long, Frances Perkins, etc. Select a group of students to develop questions on issues encountered during the study of the Depression era and have one of the group serve as moderator. Each member of the "celebrity panel" responds to one or more questions and may rebut statements of other panel members.

  3. Construct a photographic exhibit on the Depression era using Dorothea Lange's photographs. Select excerpts from speeches of public figures, passages from literary works, and selections from oral history interviews as captions for the illustrations.

You may wish to have students assume the roles of members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Un-American Activities, and respond to the photographic exhibit from their character's perspective.

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The Great Depression and the Arts

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