Photo of four women sitting in their farmhouse yard in 1933
Gregg Family, Samantha, Alabama, 1933

“Only through the stories of the common people who struggled  [in the 1930s]—the ones with rock-solid values that helped them through the toughest of times—can we really understand how the nation endured” (The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes and Paul Rivoche, 2014). 

Writers writing about the Great Depression often argue that the stories and remembrances of ordinary people interweave to help us better understand the social, economic, political, and personal struggle of the 1930s in the U.S.  And they remind us that these stories—vital threads in our nation’s fabric—are fraying away. Writers tackling The Great Depression mention both the forgotten and the forgetting.  What happens when people and the places they inhabited are lost to passing time? What understanding—of our nation and of our own family or community—vanishes when we forget? Are our stories lost forever? Or, can the forgotten be somehow recovered, raised, recalled? And, if recovered, how do they fit into the larger context of our nation’s history? How can we make them endure?

“I myself don’t remember the bleak October day, 1929. Nor do I recall with anything like a camera eye the events that shaped the Thirties. Rather, a blur of images comes to mind. Faces, voices, and occasionally, a rueful remembrance or a delightful flash. Or the astonishing innocence of a time past. Yet a feeling persists . . . “ (Studs Terkel, Hard Times, 1970).