Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal

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  • 0:02 Depression
  • 1:05 Relief
  • 2:23 Recovery
  • 3:45 Reform
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the government programs collectively called the New Deal as the nation attempted to recover from economic crisis following the Great Depression.


If you hear the word 'depression,' you know it's not good. So when we talk about the Great Depression, you know there was a major problem. The Great Depression was an economic crash that hit the world in 1929. Millions of people lost their jobs, homes, and businesses. It was rough. However, the government was not planning to sit around and wait for the Depression to end.

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. Roosevelt promised the American people a new deal, meaning a new promise that the federal government would devote itself to dealing with the Great Depression. From 1933 to 1938, the government created a series of laws and domestic programs to strengthen America during the Great Depression, remembered as Roosevelt's New Deal. There were a broad number of policies created to influence America at every level, but they fell into one of three categories: relief, recovery, and reform.


America was hit by a major period of unemployment during the Great Depression, and rural areas were especially affected. Therefore, the first New Deal programs were aimed at relief, or the immediate assistance to those most in need.

One of the major relief organizations was the Public Works Administration, which created jobs for the unemployed by raising the funds for government buildings, hospitals, schools, roads, and other projects. Thousands of people found work, at least for a little while, on these projects, from the construction workers to the artists who painted murals in every government building. I bet in your hometown you can find a few buildings that were built or redesigned during the New Deal. In fact, there were over 34,000 public work projects that were completed as part of the New Deal.

Relief projects were also targeted at helping rural America, where the Depression hit especially hard. Roosevelt and his staff believed that America could not recover until the farms recovered, so they passed many acts that focused on providing relief to farmers. The Farm Security Act raised the prices on agricultural products to help farmers get out of debt. The government later created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration to monitor agricultural prices.


The next set of New Deal programs were those aimed at recovery, or restoring the economy. The federal agency in charge of this was the National Recovery Administration. The NRA began a project called the Blue Eagle Campaign, in which leaders of majority businesses received an official Blue Eagle stamp for holding themselves accountable. We do a similar thing today with things like the Fair Trade or Organic movements. The Blue Eagle represented that a business was committed to paying their workers a certain minimum wage, giving them an 8-hour workday, and that they did not use child labor. At this time in the United States, there were very few laws about these issues, so it was on the businesses to choose to accept the changes. The Blue Eagle campaign actually worked very well, with 2 million business owners accepting the changes and production increasing steadily for several years.

Another recovery project was housing. The New Deal attempted to increase construction jobs by giving more people the opportunity to own their own homes. As with other New Deal projects, this meant creating new federal agencies. The Federal Housing Administration and Home Owners' Loan Corporation simplified the process of getting a mortgage and also set national quality standards for new homes.

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