Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2018/Fall/Section 2/Bob Franklin

Bob Franklin
A farmer whose farm was optioned by the Resettlement Adminstration of 1933
BornGeneva County, Alabama
Other namesAlbert Dunman
OccupationFarmer and Store Owner


Bob Franklin was a poor white farmer interviewed by Barbara Darsey for the Federal Writers Project in 1939.


Born in Geneva County, Alabama in 1894, Dunman spent his early life working on a farm, harvesting cotton and corn. In 1919, he married Anne Dunman, with whom he had grown up, living on neighboring farms. His marriage as well as economic challenges led him to move South to Florida in a town near Hicoria. The Dunmans had three daughters and two sons, whom he hoped to provide with a better education than his own. Franklin received up to a 6th grade education, cut short by family economic struggles. Dunman briefly returned to Alabama before settling permanently in Florida once more, where he continued to farm corn and cotton. However, difficulties adapting their farming technique to the Floridian terrain forced the Dunmans to practically start over, relearning corn harvesting techniques by working on neighboring farms. In 1933, Dunman unexpectedly received 60 dollars (nearly 1000 of today's dollars)1)owed from work he had done in Alabama. Going into debt to purchase lumber, he built a store and used the 60 dollar sum to stock his store with groceries.[1]

Though both a store owner and a farmer, Dunman faced economic struggles as the result of his lack of education. He praised the Democratic Party as “the onliest one what ever looked out for the poor folks”. In his discussion of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dunman expressed his views towards poverty in the US and the importance of religion and education. As a poor farmer who experienced the Great Depression, he was representative of a working class in America with strong faith in government. He was given hope by the New Deal and the promising economic reforms and praised Roosevelt repeatedly in his interview with the Federal Writers Project.[1]

Historical ContextEdit

Education in the 1930sEdit

With unemployment rates at a high during the Great Depression, both private investors and state governments were forced to make severe budget cuts on public and private schools in the US. Also, despite speculation that the education rate would decrease during the depression, increased unemployment led to an influx of secondary school students.[2] Although college enrollment also increased, the increase in high school students was so great that the proportion of high school students who went on to attend decreased.[2] Therefore, the quality of schools began to deteriorate due to overcrowding. [3] One room schoolhouses were still popular, given that the introduction of public school transportation had just begun to grow in the early 20th century. [4]Meanwhile, the ongoing economic struggle forced many students to sacrifice their academic careers to pursue a stable income for their families. This was especially common in rural communities. President Roosevelt responded through programs such as the National Youth Administration of 1935, which was dedicated to providing youth ages 16-24 years old with the economic means to attend school against financial pressures to drop out. [5]As New Deal programs were dedicated to economic stability in both agricultural and industrialized regions of the US, property taxes and higher incomes improved public school funding and the quality of education.

New Deal Farm ProgramsEdit

Following the end of World War 1 in 1918, both the industrial and agricultural sectors of the US economy were suffering from Overproduction.[6] Because the government had implemented price supports on crops and provided farmers with "machinery, seeds, and agricultural supervisors," [7]agricultural production peaked during the war. There was a decrease in agricultural demand during the Great Depression. As a result, farmers were forced to lower their prices. Farm income dropped approximately 60 percent [8] and the farm foreclosure rate grew to 38.8 percent in 1933.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration responded with the Agricultural Adjustment Act(AAA)of 1933 [9] , which subsidized a decrease in production by paying farmers to decrease their production of grains, cotton, and other products. Declared unconstitutional in 1936[10], the AAA was replaced by the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, which made soil conservation and "proper land use" requirements for grants to farmers.[11] As another measure of combatting the displacement of farmers due to foreclosure, the Resettlement Administration of 1935 financed "in whole or in part, the purchase of farm lands and necessary equipment by farmers, farm tenants, croppers or farm laborers.”[11] Other New Deal Programs such as the Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act of 1935 aimed to create a temporary “moratorium” or ban on foreclosures. The act faced opposition from banks that wished to repossess farms from farmers who failed to pay loans. It was declared unconstitutional, then modified from a five year to a three-year moratorium in 1935. While these programs slowed the process of foreclosure, foreclosure rates did not drop significantly until the 1940s. Many credit World War II and renewed agricultural demand for saving the US agricultural sector. However, several New Deal programs still exist in the US and help to prevent another agricultural crisis.[12]


1. "Calculate the value of $60 in 1939." Dollar Times. Accessed Sep 25, 2018 https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=60&year=1939

2. "Bob Franklin Federal Writers Project Interview", February 7, 1939, Folder 104, 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 196-1940, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina.

3. Ermacora, Matteo. "Rural Society". International Encyclopedia of the First World War, Jan 2015. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/rural_society

4."Farm Foreclosures." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, Sep 2018. https://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/farm-foreclosures

5. "United States v. Butler", 297 U.S. 1 (1936), Oyez, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1935/1935_401, accessed April 17, 2015.

6. "Agricultural Adjustment Administration". Encyclopaedia Britannica, Apr 2018. Accessed October 01, 2018 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Agricultural-Adjustment-Administration

7. Rasmussen, Wayne D. "The New Deal Farm Programs: What They Were and Why They Survived." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 65, no. 5 (1983): 1158-162. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1240440.

8. Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Statement on Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act.," March 1, 1936. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15254.

9. "Resettlement Administration (RA) (1935)" The Living New Deal. Accessed Sep 28, 2018 https://livingnewdeal.org/glossary/resettlement-administration-ra-1935/

10. Schrecker, E. (2009). The bad old days. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(40), n/a. Retrieved from http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/214654704?accountid=14244

11. "Student Transportation and Education Access." Urban Institute Student Transportation Working Group, Feb 2017. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/88481/student_transportation_educational_access_0.pdf

12. Koning, Lydia. “Education in the 1930's.” Medium, Sep 2018 https://medium.com/the-thirties/education-in-the-1930-s-bc0e4b94fb2d


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bob Franklin Federal Writers Project Interview
  2. 2.0 2.1 The bad old days
  3. Education in the 1930's
  4. Student Transportation and Education Access
  5. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Youth_Administration National Youth Administration (1935)]
  6. Rural Society
  7. Rural Society
  8. Farm Foreclosures
  9. Agricultural Adjustment Administration
  10. United States vs Butler
  11. Statement on Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act
  12. The New Deal Farm Programs: What They Were and Why They Survived