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Shaking the Foundations: Alabama in the 1930's and 1940's

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This podcast is part of the series: ArchiTreats: Food for Thought


Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins


Alabama Department of Archives and History


ArchiTreats: Food for Thought celebrates the Year of Alabama History through a series of sequential lectures in Alabama history by leading experts in the field. Join us as Leah Rawls Atkins presents Shaking the Foundations: Alabama in the 1930s and 1940s. This presentation was held at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

The Great Depression and World War II were watershed years for the state of Alabama. From the poverty and despair of the most severe economic depression in American history, the state began to emerge from the hard times to prosper from the billion-dollar economic development that poured into Alabama to finance defense and, later, war industries and military bases. Alabama took a leadership role in preparing the nation for war and training and supplying troops. From air bases, such as Maxwell Field, to forts such as Fort McClellan, to military camps, such as Camp Rucker; to the steel mills of Birmingham and the Port of Mobile ship-building operations; to the men and women who volunteered; from the aluminum plants to the explosives plants, Alabama was a vital cog in the nation’s defense. The driving forces in these years shook the foundations of politics and society, forcing Alabama to face challenges in a new world.

Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins retired in 1995 after a decade with Auburn University’s Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, where she directed four major NEH-funded librarybased public programs: “The Civil War: Crossroads of Our Being,” “World War II: Home Front/ War Fronts,” “Reading Our Lives: Southern Autobiography,” and “Read Alabama!” She taught history at Auburn and at Samford University. She was the secretary of the Alabama Historical Association (AHA) and has served as president of both the AHA and the Association of Alabama Historians. She was on the founding board of the Friends of the Archives, and she presently serves on the board of the Archives and History Foundation and the Cahaba Foundation, which is devoted to preserving the site of Alabama’s first capital. She has authored and a co-authored many works including Alabama: The History of a Deep South State and a fourth-grade Alabama history textbook. Her centennial history of the Alabama Power Company won AHA’s Sulzby Award in 2006.

This ArchiTreats presentation is made possible by the Friends of the Alabama Archives and a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The public is invited to bring a sack lunch and enjoy a bit of Alabama history. Coffee and tea will be provided by the Friends of the Alabama Archives. For more information, call (334) 353-4712.

Length: 38:42

Content Areas: Social Studies

Alabama Course of Study Alignments and/or Professional Development Standard Alignments:

SS2010 (6) United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
3. Identify causes and consequences of World War I and reasons for the United States' entry into the war.
Examples: sinking of the Lusitania, Zimmerman Note, alliances, militarism, imperialism, nationalism
  • Describing military and civilian roles in the United States during World War I
  • Explaining roles of important persons associated with World War I, including Woodrow Wilson and Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • Analyzing technological advances of the World War I era for their impact on modern warfare
  • Examples: machine gun, tank, submarine, airplane, poisonous gas, gas mask
  • Locating on a map major countries involved in World War I and boundary changes after the war
  • Explaining the intensification of isolationism in the United States after World War I
  • Example: reaction of the Congress of the United States to the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, and Red Scare
  • Recognizing the strategic placement of military bases in Alabama (Alabama)
    SS2010 (6) United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
    4. Identify cultural and economic developments in the United States from 1900 through the 1930s.
  • Describing the impact of various writers, musicians, and artists on American culture during the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age
  • Examples: Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andrew Wyeth, Frederic Remington, W. C. Handy, Erskine Hawkins, George Gershwin, Zora Neale Hurston (Alabama)
  • Identifying contributions of turn-of-the-century inventors
  • Examples: George Washington Carver, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright (Alabama)
  • Describing the emergence of the modern woman during the early 1900s
  • Examples: Amelia Earhart, Zelda Fitzgerald, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Washington, suffragettes, suffragists, flappers (Alabama)
  • Identifying notable persons of the early 1900s
  • Examples: Babe Ruth, Charles A. Lindbergh, W. E. B. Du Bois, John T. Scopes (Alabama)
  • Comparing results of the economic policies of the Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover Administrations
  • Examples: higher wages, increase in consumer goods, collapse of farm economy, extension of personal credit, stock market crash, Immigration Act of 1924
    SS2010 (11) United States History II: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
    10. Describe the impact of World War II on the lives of American citizens, including wartime economic measures, population shifts, growth in the middle class, growth of industrialization, advancements in science and technology, increased wealth in the African-American community, racial and ethnic tensions, Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (G. I. Bill of Rights), and desegregation of the military. [A.1.b., A.1.c., A.1.d., A.1.e., A.1.g., A.1.i., A.1.k.]
  • Describing Alabama's participation in World War II, including the role of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Aliceville Prisoner of War (POW) camp, growth of the Port of Mobile, production of Birmingham steel, and the establishment of military bases (Alabama)


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