Students have read about the Depression and its effects on the American family.
In this activity students will research the lives of teenage hobos who crisscrossed
the country by hopping freight trains during the Depression years.
Students will use information from the Riding the Rails Web site to learn about
Depression-era teenage hobos. Students will read first-hand accounts of the
teenage hobo experience from both the white and the African American perspective.
They will read a transcript of a film about the lives of these hobos and link
to hobo songs. Students will then answer four questions and apply this information
by writing song lyrics that describe teenage homelessness during the Depression.
- Students will analyze the effects of the Great Depression on American teenagers
- Students will be able to use this knowledge to write a song lyric that describes
teenage homelessness and poverty during the Depression.
Student Web Activity Answers
- Reasons that teens left home during the Depression include the following:
they were orphaned, they felt that they were burdens to their families, they
went in search of work, they wanted to escape the unhappiness at home, and
they wanted adventure.
- The tales describe hobo lives etched with destitution. The authors tell
of being hungry most of the time, and many teens resorted to begging and stealing.
Their clothing is described as tattered and dirty. The parents they left behind
are described as despondent and burdened with money woes.
- The railroad bulls were the guards who worked for the railroad lines. It
was their job to either keep hobos from jumping the trains or to get money
from them once they'd been caught riding. Bulls carried clubs or guns and
didn't hesitate to use violence against the hobos. Many teen hobos were injured,
and some ended up dead at the hands of railroad bulls.
- African Americans endured the poverty that affected all hobos, but they
had the added burden of racism. Generally, African American hobos did not
receive the same response when soliciting strangers. Most African American
hobos reported that they felt like outcasts even among fellow hobos. Lynching,
a common practice in the South, was an especially serious threat to African
American teenage hobos.
- Students' lyrics will vary.
Go To Student Web Activity