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I think that the voice of people of color, specifically African- Americans, during the time period of the Great Depression is a complex one. Certainly, advances were made. Roosevelt was seen as something of a liberating figure for African- Americans because as he sought to construct a national identity based on perseverance and austerity, it seemed that he did not exclude African- Americans. This was something markedly distinctive and new for a group that had become accustomed to seeing their own role in American politics as a marginal one, at best. I would say that there was some level of frustration, though, regarding the forces of change and whether or not African- Americans were seen as a part of this force of change. As the Great Depression limited economic opportunities for many, it severely limited such moments of advancement for people of color. The paradoxical relationship of support and waiting, along with frustration at what was happening was probably best captured by Langston Hughes' poem, "Waitin' on Roosevelt." I would suggest that this poem might capture best the dynamic of hope and frustration that African- Americans felt during the New Deal reforms and whether or not this would include people of color. The images of the "bare cupboard," the rent being due and the "lights out," along with the lack of affordable health care with the conditions fostered by poor housing and lack of food are all illuminated in this poem. In doing so, Hughes brings out how the promises and possibilities of the New Deal and the Roosevelt Administration were willing to be acknowledged and accepted by people of color, specifically African- Americans. However, the reality of the times and the crushing force of poverty were equal in magnitude and forcing the acknowledgement of how pain and suffering can be seen as the countervailing forces to hope and loyalty. In this, I think that a great critique can be offered from the point of view of the person of color during the life and times of the New Deal.
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