Lesson Plan: Overview

"A Costly Prosperity", South Carolina during World War II

Grade Level: 8th

Academic Standards

Standard 8-7: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s economic revitalization during World War II and the latter twentieth century.

Indicator8-7.1: Summarize the significant aspects of the economic growth experienced by South Carolina during and following World War II, including the contributions of Governor Strom Thurmond in promoting economic growth; the creation of the State Development Board and the technical education system; the benefits of good road systems, a sea port, and the Savannah River site; and the scarcity of labor unions.

Social Studies Literacy Elements
K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships
L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts
R. Use statistics and other quantitative techniques to interpret and evaluate social studies information
S. Interpret and synthesize information obtained from a variety of sources—graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, texts, photographs, documents, and interviews
U. Select and design appropriate forms of graphs, diagrams, tables, and charts to organize social studies information
V. Use a variety of media to develop and organize integrated summaries of social studies information

Essential Question:
In what ways did World War II impact the economy of South Carolina?

Historical Background Notes

Prior to the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II, South Carolina was already in the midst of an economic recovery resulting from the many public works programs initiated by the New Deal, a collection of federal programs enacted to solve the problems caused by the Great Depression. Along with the New Deal programs, the federal government was expanding the military and naval installations throughout the state.

The entrance of the United States in the war had an enormous impact on the economy of South Carolina, as well as the rest of the nation. The effects were felt by every demographic of society. It was a time of great prosperity and of great sacrifice. The roles of women and men changed. African-Americans found new opportunities for economic growth, and began to redefine their place in American society. Even schoolchildren were asked to contribute to the war effort. It was a costly prosperity.

Revitalizing the Economy

Every aspect of South Carolina’s economy was impacted by the war. Due to the increased demand for cotton and other produce, the state’s agriculture, which had struggled since the early 1920’s, saw its wages more than double between 1939 and 1943. Textile mills increased their labor force and production in order to keep up with war-time production goals. The mills operated in three shifts around the clock. Between 1939 and 1943, cotton consumption by textile mills increased over sixty percent. Military bases throughout the state employed thousands of civilians. Employment at the Charleston Navy Yard increased from six thousand in 1941 to twenty-eight thousand in 1943. The Charleston Navy Yard produced more than three hundred medium and small sized vessels and repaired numerous others.  As many as seventy-two thousand workers found employment in defense-related firms. (Edgar et. al 1998, 513)

Reinventing the Roles of Men and Woman

One of the many challenges South Carolina faced was supplying a labor force for its war-time industries.  As the war progressed, more than 180,000 South Carolinians, including 2,500 women, joined the armed services. Many others desired to serve, but forty-one percent were disqualified during their examinations due to mental or physical problems.  There was a dramatic shift in the state’s population. Charleston and its vicinity saw a population increase of 41 percent. The counties of Beaufort, Dorchester, Greenville, and Richland also saw increases in population. The remaining forty counties lost population. One obvious cause for the decreased population was the number of men and women in military service. It was also due in part to a migration of people from rural to urban areas seeking employment in the defense-related industries. Many people, particularly African-Americans, left the state and moved north in search of greater opportunities. All of these things created a drastic reduction in rural South Carolina’s labor force. In order to supply the needed workers, farmers employed more women and children in the fields. Although urban populations increased, the war-time demands for production made it necessary for industries to employ women to perform jobs once held by men alone. A woman’s place was no longer to be just in the home. (Edgar 1998, 513-515)

Redefining the Place of African-Americans

Segregation and economic oppression were daily realities for African-Americans in South Carolina. African-Americans remained at the bottom of the social ladder. The demands of the war, the movement of America’s population, and the contributions of African-Americans to the war effort are going to challenge the status quo. Labor shortages not only created opportunities for women, they also created opportunities for African-Americans. 

In spite of long held prejudices, necessity forced Charleston industries to accept more African-American workers. Most of the jobs they were given required only unskilled labor. The few skilled labor positions available to blacks also required they be kept separate from their white counterparts. Reports of discrimination in hiring practices and fears of African-American protests prompted President Roosevelt to issue an executive order creating the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which guaranteed jobs for African-Americans in defense plants. The percentage of African-Americans working in Charleston’s defense industries increased from about 14 percent in 1936 to about 36 percent in 1942.  (Hamer 2005, 88)(Horne 2006, 503)

Over a million African-Americans were drafted or volunteered for military service. At the beginning of the war they were assigned to all-black units with white officers. But by 1942, African-American officers were graduating at a rate of about two hundred a month. Units like the Tuskeegee Airmen provided historic opportunities for African-Americans to serve in capacities never before realized. By the wars end, plans were already being made by the army to integrate platoons of black and white soldiers. When the war was over, most southerners believed society would return to its pre-war norms. This was far from what was to follow. African- Americans began to speak with one voice and with the moral authority of those who sacrificed as much as any others to win the war. It was time for change. (Horne 2006, 502)

Rationing and Recycling

The war brought prosperity to South Carolina, but it didn’t come without sacrifice. South Carolina had over 5000 fatal casualties during the war. The sacrifices made by these brave men and women makes all the other sacrifices pale in comparison.  Thousands more were wounded and maimed.

At the home front, life was characterized by war bonds, collections for relief agencies, rationing and numerous recycling drives.  Items important to the war effort, such as, gasoline, lard, tires, as well as food items like coffee, tea, and sugar were rationed. Money was collected for the National War Fund, a relief agency providing entertainment for the troops, food, clothing, and medical aid for war torn countries and war prisoners. Recycling drives for cooking oil, rubber, paper, and various metals were common. There were food drives to provide relief for European countries. Many people planted “victory gardens” to provide food for their families. Everybody was required to make sacrifices for the war effort. World War II was a total war. As such, very few escaped feeling its impact. It brought changes to South Carolina that are still felt today. South Carolina would never be the same following the war. (Horne 2006, 501)

Primary Sources
Pate, E. H., to Melvin Hyman, American Red Cross, Darlington, South Carolina. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
They’re still giving Are you?, South Carolina State War Fund Brochure. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
“State Summary of War Casualties”, The National Archives. Accessed 23 January 2007. 
Want, Samuel, to The Principals and Teachers in the County Schools,25, October 1945. Darlington, South Carolina, Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
War Ration Book One, Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
War Ration Book Four, Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
Ward, C.M., to Marcus W. Brown, Pearl Street, Darlington, South Carolina. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.
“World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing”, Available from http://media.nara.gov/media/images/29/18/29-1768a.gif. Internet, The National Archives. Accessed 23 January 2007.  
“World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing”, Available from http://media.nara.gov/media/images/29/18/29-1771a.gif. Internet, The National Archives. Accessed 23 January 2007.  
Secondary Sources
Edgar, Walter. South Carolina A History. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.
Edgar, Walter. ed. The South Carolina Encyclopedia.  Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, 2006
Hamer, Fritz P. Charleston Reborn. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2005.
"How S.C. Helped Win World War II." The State (Columbia, SC) , 14, August 2005, D5.
LCD Projector
Power Point Presentation for "A Costly Prosperity"
Copies of primary source materials.


No materials available for this lesson plan.

Lesson Plans

The lesson will follow along with the Power Point presentation. Give the students a copy of the Power Point presentation with space for notes. The lesson follows the Historical Background notes. They may be used to give the students additional notes. When slide 14 is reached distribute begin distributing the various primary source documents.

Slide 15- Distribute Ration Book Four, War Ration Book One, and the letter to Mr. Brown. Discuss each item.

Slide 16- Distribute the South Carolina War Fund brochure, the letter to the principals in the county schools, the letter to Mr. Hyman, and the contributions sheet. Discuss each item.

Slide17- Distribute the World War II Honor List of the dead and missing, and the State Summary of War Casualties. Discuss each item.


Write a short story about a family living during the time of World War II. Use the information you know about the time period such as, rationing, recycling, military service, women’s employment, African-American’s contributions, to make your story historically accurate.

Teacher Reflections

The biggest impact “Teaching American History in South Carolina” has had on my teaching thus far is in the use of primary documents. In my class, we haven’t reached the period of history studied during the course this summer. We are just now starting on the Civil War. However, the use of primary documents has been something that the students have found to be interesting. In our unit on Native Americans, we read several Native American folktales. The students then would try to determine the point or morale to the story. They in turn would create their own folktales in the style of Native Americans. Several of these were included in our school’s literary magazine. We also would have Native American music playing in the background as we read the folktales, both the originals and the students’ works. This was very enjoyable and the students took great pride in their work.

When we were studying the rice plantations we examined a set of rules created by a plantation owner for his plantation. Our previous study of the Stono Rebellion and the subsequent reforms made the examination of this document more interesting as it contained many of the reforms mandated after the rebellion. As we read this document together we had a very lively discussion as to why these rules were important to the plantation owners.

When we studied the Gullah culture, we listened to recordings of people speaking Gullah. We then read a passage from the Gullah Bible and compared it to another version. Finally we examined a Gullah dictionary and the students were required to write a sentence in Gullah and share it with the rest of the class to see if they could translate it. This was enormous fun.

During the study of the Revolutionary war we read the Declaration of Independence. After studying the main ideas of the declaration we divided into groups and named each group after a district in colonial South Carolina. We then proceeded to have our own congress to write a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain for South Carolina. This took nearly a week. Each group produced their own declaration on very large paper. We then stained the paper with very strong coffee.  Each class then voted on their favorite declaration, which is displayed in our media center. The others have been displayed in the hall. 

As we begin our study of the Civil War, we will be examining a copy of the Article of Succession signed by the great-great-great grandfather of one of our teachers. Using primary sources has freed us from relying so heavily on our text books. This has been refreshing for me and my students.

When we begin the unit on reconstruction, I’m sure the content learned during the summer will become very useful. The course I enrolled in covered the period from reconstruction to the present. The study of the Progressive era was particularly interesting to me. It is difficult to find good materials on this period of history. The methods instruction was important because it created a fresh framework for thinking about how we teach our students. It reinforced the idea that primary sources can free us from a dependency on textbooks as well as breathe life into the textbooks we utilize.

During the summer course was the first time I have worked with cultural institutions, other than the local library, to prepare lesson material. It was exciting to see first hand documents that I’ve only read about before. I honestly had no idea the people in these institutions would be so enthusiastic to assist in my searches. I have worked this school year with the Sumter Historical Society and Archives and they have been a pleasure to work with. 

My future plans will be to continue to find and use primary source documents for instruction. Although this is time consuming, and therefore difficult to accomplish during the academic year, I plan to use my “free” time this summer to visit local archives and gather resources for next year. As the social studies department head, I’ve encouraged the use of primary sources in all our social studies classes. I have also purchased some material from the national archives. I also plan to provide some training to our department on how to effectively use primary resources.

In conclusion, when asked about their feelings about social studies textbooks, most students said they like the pictures. In general, they view a textbook negatively. This presents an immediate obstacle for any teacher to overcome. When asked about their feelings toward primary documents their response was, “it depends on the document”. Although this doesn’t sound enthusiastic, it is neither a negative response. They approach the unfamiliar document with an open mind. An open mind can be taught.

Student Assessments

Teacher used attached rubric.

Examples of Students Work

No examples available for this lesson plan.


Brian Wilcox
Manning Junior High