It was one of the darker moments in American history. This episode of the PBS series The American Experience focuses on events in the Depression year of 1932, a time that saw communities across America dotted with "Hoovervilles," shantytowns comprised of unemployed workers and named after the nation's president, Herbert Hoover. This documentary focuses special attention on the World War I veterans known as "Bonus Marchers," who built their Hooverville in Washington, DC, during the summer of that year in an effort to force Congress to redeem their service compensation certificates immediately, instead of waiting for them to mature. Hoover and Congress declined, believing the outflow of cash would further weaken the economy. Ultimately, Hoover sent in the army to clear Pennsylvania Avenue. Commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, tanks and horse cavalry ran roughshod over the unemployed veterans and their families, burning tents and destroying the camp. Although some historians believe MacArthur overstepped explicit orders from the president, voters that year held Hoover accountable and elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt to replace him. Highlights of this program include archival film footage and photographs, as well as commentary by historians.
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