Stormy Weather

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“Life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere
Stormy weather, just can't get my poor old self together
I'm weary all the time, the time, so weary all of the time”

Stormy Weather, 1933

Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by Ted Koehler


For the current generation of students in American high schools interfaced with an affluent world of smart phones and laptops, and flat-screens and i-pods, the material bleakness of the Great Depression is an oddity on display in the museum that is their U.S. History textbook. In all honesty it is not much different for the “boomers” of my generation who also grew up in a time of American economic growth. Our lives contrasted sharply with that of our parents, children of the Great Depression, and that of our grandparents, the young adults whose hopes and dreams were dashed by the economic crisis.


Human nature and the cycles of history have brought a focus on this period in our history recently. The so-called “Great Recession of 2008,” beginning with the collapse of  the Lehman Brothers investment corporation on September 15th and the panic and decline that followed, has revived fears of what is to come, and stimulated controversy over who is at fault, what is to be done, and what should be done by our government? There are parallels with the Great Depression in that; it is the worst economic decline since that time, it was caused by corporate mischief in an under-regulated market place, and it resulted in a profound loss of wealth by many Americans, high unemployment, widespread national anxiety, and a prolonged slowdown in the economy. There are further comparisons when it comes to the role of government. President Obama’s T.A.R.P., health care bill, federal “stimulus programs,” and efforts to expand corporate regulation draw comparisons with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. It would, however, be easy to go too far in such comparisons as the scale and scope of the crisis were so much greater in the 1930’s. Try to imagine a popular song today reflecting the utter despair found in the words of “Stormy Weather.”


For a generation of students growing up in an era of prosperity, technology and unequaled American power, the current economic crisis has created an opportunity for interest and empathy with the 1930’s that I could not pass up. Each year my A.P.U.S. History classes tackle a historical topic or theme and construct a book consisting of student written papers investigating different aspects of that topic. After selecting an enthusiastic group of editors, we brainstormed categories that would create a basis of chapters in our compilation. Students searched for historical works within a category of their choice, and then wrote a descriptive critique of their book that included a set of common questions that all the papers addressed. The editors designed the book and the layout of the papers, put the papers through three cycles of editing, constructed it on a desktop publisher, raised money for and published the book on paper and electronically (available at This book is a tribute to all of the hard work of my three A.P classes, chief editor Cassie Yeh and her dedicated editorial staff.


The title “Stormy Weather” is not only apt for the decade of the 1930’s, but for the current economic crisis as well. It is also a tribute to the recent passing of the great African-American singer and entertainer, Lena Horne, who made this her signature song when she recorded it in 1941 and it reminds us of what a particularly difficult period of time these hard times were for people of color. Horne’s version had followed others done by the great Billy Holiday, and the original sung by Ethel Waters at the Cotton Club inHarlem in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression.


Steve Sewell,

June 14th 2010


A Note from the Editors:
Designed to be a digital copy of our book, Stormy Weather, this site is a compilation of all the hard work that the Advanced Placement class of 2010 has created. By clicking the tabs on the top of the page and selecting the corresponding chapters and sub-chapters, you will find a copy of your book review as well as the book reviews of your peers. We hope your book and this website remain as a memory of this class and the teacher and students who make it a whole. Once again, welcome to Stormy Weather.


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