World War II was more important than the Great Depression in fundamentally transforming American society. 

Assess the validity of this statement based on your knowledge of American society between 1930 and 1945 and the documents below.



I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.


SOURCE:  Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, 1932.



Unemployment (1929-1942)

Source: The American Pageant, Bailey, Kennedy & Cohen .



Source: Jersey City Journal, January 23, 1936.




The Rights of Employees

Sec. 7. [Sec. 157].  Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment.... 

Source:  National Labor Relations Act, 1935.




There can be no objection to any hand our government may take which strives to bring peace to the world so long as that hand does not tie 130,000,000 people into another world death march....We reach now a condition on all fours with that prevailing just before our plunge into the European war in 1917.  Will we blindly repeat that futile venture?  Can we easily forget that we won nothing we fought for then--that we lost every cause declared to be responsible for our entry then?

Source: Senator Gerald P. Nye, 1937.




We met the issue of 1933 with courage and realism. We face this new crisis- this new threat to the security of our nation-with the same courage and realism. Never before since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization been in such danger as now.

For on September 27, 1940-this year-by an agreement signed in Berlin. three powerful nations, two in Europe and one in Asia, joined themselves together in the threat that if the United States of America interfered with or blocked the expansion program of these three nations-a program aimed at world control-they would unite in ultimate action against the United States…The British people and their allies today are conducting an active war against this unholy alliance. Our own future security is greatly dependent on the outcome of that fight. Our ability to "keep out of war" is going to be affected by that outcome.

We must be the great arsenal of democracy.  For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.  We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.

Source:  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Arsenal of Democracy speech, December 29, 1940.




In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. 

The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

Source:  Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Four Freedoms, January, 1941.




Source:  Westinghouse for the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee, c. 1943.




We know that our fate is tied up with the fate of the democratic way of life.  And so, out of the depths of our hearts, a cry goes out for the triumph of the United Nations.  But...unless this war sounds the death knell to the old Anglo-American empire systems, the hapless story of which is one of exploitation for the profit and power of a monopoly capitalist economy, it will have been fought in vain.  Our aim then must not only be to defeat nazism, fascism, and militarism on the battlefield, but to win the peace, for democracy, for freedom and the Brotherhood of Man without regard to his pigmentation, land of his birth or the God of his fathers....

White citizens...should [not] be taken into the March on Washington Movement as members.  The essential value of an all-Negro movement as the March on Washington is that it helps to create faith by Negroes in Negroes.  It develops a sense of self-reliance with Negroes depending on Negroes in vital matters.  It helps to break down the slave psychology and inferiority-complex in Negroes which comes and is nourished with Negroes relying on white people for direction and support.

Source:  A. Philip Randolph, 1942, proposing a march on Washington.




Source:  Thomas A. Bailey, David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen.  The American Pageant, 11th. ed. (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1998), p. 854.


DBQ Question created by:

Mr. Steven Mercado
Chaffey High School
Ontario, CA
created in:  March, 2001