great depression

Lewis Hinter with his family on Lady's Island off Beaufort, South Carolina, 1936
Library of Congress. Photo by Carl Mydans, U.S. Farm Security Administration

Following World War I, South Carolina’s economy collapsed. The post-World-War-I drop in demand for textiles, the subsequent collapse in cotton prices, the exhaustion of farmland through poor farming practices, and the decimation of cotton crops by the boll weevil hit South Carolinians hard. Then came the stock market crash on Black Thursday in 1929 and the nation’s plunge into the Great Depression. People were starving, businesses were failing, farms were being repossessed, and sharecroppers were squeezed between the need to grow their own food and their landlords’ demands.

A mural entitled "Past and Present Agriculture and Industry of Colleton County" painted by Sheffield Kagy in 1938 as part of the Works Project Administration's public arts intitiative.
Jimmy Emerson [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

When the stock market crashed in 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, South Carolina was already in dire financial straits. Cotton prices had plummeted, even before the boll weevil had decimated the crop. Years of non-sustainable practices in cotton farming had ruined thousands of acres of farmland. And, the textile industry had crashed.