Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The National Youth Administration in North Carolina

Above: President Roosevelt, on his way to deliver a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1936. In creating the National Youth Administration, President Roosevelt said, "I have determined that we shall do something for the Nation's unemployed youth because we can ill afford to lose the skill and energy of these young men and women." From the Final Report of the National Youth Administration, p. 23. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

The National Youth Administration (NYA, 1935-1943) was a New Deal program that provided jobs, training, recreation, and social activities for the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who were dealing with the dearth of opportunity caused by the Great Depression. In its early years, the NYA was a subdivision of the WPA. 

The NYA had a strong presence in North Carolina. For example, according to the Final Report of the National Youth Administration (p. 227):

"One of the best recreation programs was in the State of North Carolina. The State Department of Public Education and the NYA jointly planned and put it into action. An advisory committee consisted of representatives of the State Department of Public Instruction, the State Board of Health, the City Recreation Department, the State Department of Conservation and Development, and the University of North Carolina. Its duties were to assist the NYA recreation supervisor to locate for use existing recreational facilities, find local recreational leadership, secure local support in the planning and execution of festivals, exhibits, pageants, and athletic contests, and relate the NYA recreation program for out-of-school youth to all other State programs. The objective of this State-wide program was to develop a variety of recreational outlets for idle youth. Through this program opportunities were provided for participation in a variety of physical activities essential to sound bodily growth and development of physical skills, in competitive games or sports, and in informal activities of youths' own choosing, such as arts and crafts, dramatics, music, and nature-study."

"State recreation personnel in North Carolina visited local, nonresident projects and helped supervisors and related training instructors to plan programs for lunch hours which included board and card games, arts and crafts, and other less vigorous physical activities. Such pastimes plus athletic games also were organized for after-work hours. Where youth could take part in recreation activities on the project site, participation was large. Parties, wiener roasts, dances and other social events were possible once or twice a month. NYA youth brought non-NYA partners for these social occasions. The North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction assigned a specialist in social recreation and dramatics to arrange recreational programs for nonresident project workers. This specialist acted as an adviser and assisted in securing cosponsors for projects which made recreational equipment. Without official State support, such a broad recreational program as that of North Carolina could not have been initiated by NYA. Many States considered public recreation a superfluous expenditure of funds, and public treasuries, depleted by the depression, could not afford the burden of recreational programs for underprivileged young people."

Above: Eleanor Roosevelt visiting a YMCA in Kannapolis, North Carolina, 1942. Aubrey Williams, head of the NYA, wrote, "One of the NYA's ablest and wisest friends was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt...Her unfailing interest, her deep and sympathetic understanding of the problems of youth, and her endless courage were a source of great strength and guidance to the NYA, to the youth on its program, and to the youth of America" (Final Report of the National Youth Administration, pp. VI-VII). Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
Above: The NYA operated mobile health units in North Carolina, to administer chest X-rays and dental services to those in need (Final Report of the National Youth Administration, p. 224). WPA poster image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.   
Above: North Carolina schools and colleges were very eager to participate in NYA programs. For example, during the academic year of 1939-1940, only Texas had more schools and colleges participating in NYA student work programs. All told, North Carolina had an astounding 1,393 schools and colleges participating that year (Final Report of the National Youth Administration, p. 246). WPA poster image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

 Above: Training young Americans to operate machinery was a big part of the NYA. Such training enhanced the participant's employment opportunities and, with the coming of World War II, enhanced America's war effort. Note the NYA letters on the young woman's work clothes. Photo taken in Washington, DC, 1943, by Roger Smith of the Office of War Information. Provided courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

***Book references above refer to the Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943, by the Federal Security Agency, War Manpower Commission, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944. 

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