Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A New Deal for North Carolina

(In the video above, State Park Ranger Jason Anthony discusses the importance of the Civilian Conservation Corps, both to the nation and to Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County, North Carolina. Original video is at

Recently, there have been efforts to reform North Carolina's social studies curriculum in ways that disparage government and the New Deal (see, e.g., here, here, and here). However, many residents of North Carolina were greatly assisted by New Deal programs, and many New Deal projects are still being utilized and enjoyed today. Here are some New Deal facts & figures for the Tar Heel State...

Civil Works Administration (CWA):

In January of 1934, there were over 75,000 formerly-jobless North Carolinians working in the CWA, building or repairing schools, roads, bridges, and more.

(From the "Analysis of Civil Works Program Statistics," 1939, p. 18)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC):

Between 1933 and 1942, 75,800 North Carolina men were employed in the CCC. This included about 68,600 junior and veteran enrollees, 430 Indians, and 6,800 staff. Among their many accomplishments was the planting of 26 million trees.

(From Perry H. Merrill's book, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," 1981, p. 157)

(The WPA's Federal Theatre Project helped "The Lost Colony" make it to stage. The play was written by Paul Green and is still performed every year on Roanoke Island. The image above is from a 1939 program for the play - National Archives copy.)

(The CCC helped construct the Waterside Theatre, where "The Lost Colony" is performed. The image above is from a 1939 program for the play - National Archives copy.)

(The somewhat changed Waterside Theatre today. Photo by Brent McKee, 2013.) 

Public Works Administration (PWA):

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $38 million in funding towards 352 infrastructure projects in North Carolina. In today's dollars, that's about $639 million.

(From "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939, p. 284)

National Youth Administration (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 1,393 schools, colleges, and universities in North Carolina participated in the NYA program (second only to Texas), employing a little over 10,000 young men and women.

(From the "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," 1944, pp. 246-247)

(The Hiwassee Dam in Cherokee County, North Carolina. The Tennessee Valley Authority built this dam (and others) to provide flood control and power to rural areas that had been under-served or completely ignored by private power companies. The dam still produces enormous amounts of power today (see here), and TVA currently serves about nine million people in North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, and, of course, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Public Works of Art Project (PWAP):

Between 1933 and 1934, in Region 5 of the PWAP (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida), unemployed artists were paid to create 13 murals, 17 sculptures, 25 water color paintings, and 25 oil paintings, for use in public buildings and parks.

(From Public Works of Art Project, "Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator, December 8, 1933 - June 30, 1934," 1934, p. 7)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA):

In February of 1935, 2,705 college students in North Carolina were employed in FERA's College Student Aid Program. This was a program "undertaken in order to enable young persons who would not otherwise have been able to do so to continue their education, and thereby reduce the influx of young workers into the labor market" (recall that during the Great Depression there was a large drop in the demand for labor).

Between 1933 and 1935, FERA granted $40 million to North Carolina for relief efforts (about $681 million in today's dollars). These efforts included direct cash relief, rural relief projects, and a wide variety of work programs.

(From the "Final Statistical Report of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration," 1942, pp. 64, 103, and 232)

(Looking like a cross between a cathedral and a military barracks, this sturdy WPA-built gym served the town of Manteo, North Carolina for three-quarters of a century. Photo by a local resident, used with permission.)

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Between 1935 and 1943, North Carolina's WPA workers produced 9.3 million articles of clothing; served 4.5 million school lunches; created or improved 14,000 miles of roads; built or improved 725 bridges; installed or improved 21,000 culverts; engaged in 1,400 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; created or improved 97 parks; installed 450 miles of new water lines; constructed 130,000 linear feet of new airport & airfield runway; and more.

(From the "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," 1946, pp. 134-136)

Post Offices:

During the New Deal era, the U.S Treasury built Post Office buildings in North Carolina and commissioned artists to decorate them. See the Living New Deal's North Carolina pages for examples.

(When project paperwork was received by the North Carolina WPA Office, it received this date & time stamp. Photo by Brent McKee, from a National Archives record.)

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