Sunday, July 31, 2022

Interesting examples of integration in the Civilian Conservation Corps, from Arizona

Above: All of the photos in this blog post come from the CCC Official Annual, 1936, 8th Corps Area, Tucson District. The annual was put together by the Direct Advertising Company, the Ramires-Jones Printing Company, and the Shreveport Engraving Company (all from Louisiana). All photos used here are for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Kitchen staff of CCC Company 2848, Camp SCS-7-A, Bowie, Arizona. CCC enrollees rotated in and out of kitchen duty - although some of them were trained to be long-term cooks (see Manuel R. Martinez's recollection below).

Above: Some of the members of CCC Company 2881, Camp SCS-14-A, San Simon, Arizona. "The project work of the company is part of the Gila River conservation program... The chief aim is to control the disastrous flood waters... and to reclaim to grazing and farming use the once fertile and beautiful San Simon Valley" (p. 31 of the CCC Annual).

Above: A closer view of some of the members of Company 2881, from the previous photo.

Above: The baseball team of Company 2881 (see previous two photos). Recreation was an important part of life in the CCC.

Above: Some of the members of CCC Company 1826, Camp F-30-A, Tucson, Arizona. This company consisted of World War I veterans and, among their many varied projects, was extensive firefighting.

Above: Part of CCC Company 2851, Camp SP-10-A, Vail, Arizona. "The company has been fortunate in having one of the most interesting work projects in the state - the exploration and development of Colossal Cave" (p. 51 of the CCC Annual).

Above: The baseball team of Company 2851 (see previous photo).

Above: Members of Company 2851 (see previous two photos), posing with what appears to be a basketball trophy.

Above: Members of Company 2862, Camp SP-11-A, Tucson, Arizona. "This company has an interesting history in the fact that there has never been an accident of any description during its whole operation. In addition, the company has never had a desertion, or what is commonly known as 'going over the hill'" (p. 55 of the CCC Annual).

Integration in the CCC was not unheard of (as the examples above show)

Depending on a variety of circumstances, for example, the customs of the state or local communities, a CCC camp could be segregated or integrated. And even integrated camps might have had segregated barracks, as one enrollee recalled: "There were twenty negroes, who had their own segregated barracks, but we all worked together" (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, p. 70).

In the CCC, young men could learn to live, work, and cooperate with people from different backgrounds, as these two recollections highlight:

Manuel Gomez (unknown camp location): "We lived with boys from farms, cities and small towns; every nationality and most religious denominations were represented in our camp... We had blacks in our camp - this was before integration was accepted in our country. I got to know these boys in work and play and realized that discrimination had no place in our world" (Merrill, p. 56).

Manuel R. Martinez (CCC camp in Colorado): "After three months of planting trees, grass, contour plowing, I was sent to a cook and bakery school for instruction... Very soon I was made a first cook and promoted to Mess Sergeant, which is why my tour of duty lasted for four years... Our camp had a mixture of Latins, colored and a company of enrollees from Boston, a real hodgepodge. I am over 62 and consider the CCC the happiest period of my life..." (Merrill, p. 75).

In modern times, America has refused to create a new CCC, where urban, suburban, and rural youth can live and work together in camaraderie - where they can get to know each other, and realize that we're all human beings with the same emotions and aspirations. On the other hand, we have built plenty of prisons for wayward young (and older) adults. And in these prisons, gangs have been created. Indeed, many of the gangs that cause problems on our streets sprang from prisons, where inmates joined together for protection from other groups.

If you want to know why there are so many problems of gangs, violence, youth unemployment, white supremacy, etc., consider the CCC vs. prisons dichotomy. Consider whether is is best to invest on the front-end of things (for example, the CCC), or on the back-end of things (for example, prisons).

"I have thought over and over that we should have a program of [the CCC and National Youth Administration] sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."

--Anne Treadwell, Director of the National Youth Administration in California (1935-1939), in a 1996 oral history interview.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Nathan Abas and the WPA's Bay Area Orchestra, California

Above: Nathan Abas (1896-1980), conducted the WPA's Bay Area Orchestra, California, from 1939-1942, for a total of 400 concerts. Photo from The Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1936,, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Listen to the WPA's Bay Area Orchestra. There is an introduction mentioning Nathan Abas; then a musical number; then, at around 6:24, there is a discussion of the WPA's role in reducing the prevalence of typhoid fever (a serious and sometimes deadly bacterial infection spread by poor sanitation); and finally a second music performance beginning at 8:21.

Above: The digital recording above came from this transcription record. Transcription records were a little bigger and often made of different materials than the records most of us are familiar with today. This record was probably used to broadcast WPA music on the radio, back in the day. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: A closer look at the label on the transcription record. The WPA's Bay Area Orchestra seems to have gone by several names, for example, the "Northern California WPA Symphony Orchestra," the "Federal Symphony Orchestra of Northern California," the "Bay Region Federal Symphony Orchestra," and the "Bay Area Federal Symphony Orchestra." Some of this name variety probably stems from the change that occurred to the major federal art projects in 1939. Beginning in fiscal year 1939-1940, art projects were no longer sponsored by the WPA, but instead by states & localities (however, the WPA continued to provide funds).

Above: An announcement in The Los Angeles Times (5-16-1943), showing yet another name variation for Abas and his (former) WPA orchestra. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: An advertisement for Nathan Abas and the "Northern California Symphony Orchestra" (note "Works Progress Administration" at the bottom). Nathan Abas and his WPA orchestra played at many venues, such as the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Oakland Auditorium Theater, Junior College Auditorium (Sacramento), San Francisco Veterans' Building, Outdoor Theatre of the College of the Pacific, the Hanford Auditorium (Hanford, California), and the Curran Theater (San Francisco). Image from the Oakland Tribune, February 7, 1940, and; used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Part of a longer article in the February 5, 1939 edition of the Oakland Tribune, noting the talent of Abas and his musicians. This would be the first of many praises. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

A New Deal for the Blind

Above: From The Cushing Daily Citizen (Cushing, Oklahoma), January 2, 1938. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Joseph Clunk (1895-1975) was the first blind civil servant in the federal government. He was appointed in 1937 and his duties were to "administer the Randolph-Sheppard Act and [serve] on the U.S. Office of Education, Vocational Service Board as 'special agent for the blind'" (Smithsonian Institution Archives). The Randolph-Sheppard Act was "originally signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 [and] requires that blind individuals receive priority for the operation of vending facilities on federal property" (EveryCRSReport). Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Above: From an article in The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), April 5, 1940. The article explains that this National Youth Administration (NYA) resident project would engage blind youth (both men and women) in several Braille-related projects, and also in the production of goods, e.g., "door mats, brooms and brushes... rugs and wearing apparel" for state institutions and also for private citizens in need of assistance. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: The description for this photograph--taken in Savannah, Georgia, 1936--reads: "Blind person using the Braille writer under supervision of WPA teacher." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: This photograph was taken in Indianapolis between 1935 and 1943. The description for it reads: "WPA workers at the Indiana State School for the Blind at work on a garden which will have Braille labels for the use of the students of the school." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: From The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California), July 15, 1938. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: WPA workers building talking books for the blind, New York City, ca. 1935-1940. The WPA also had projects to transcribe various types of literature into Braille hard-copy books. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The description for this photograph, taken in Seattle, Washington, 1938, reads: "WPA library project - extension service to the blind. This blind man is listening to one of the 'talking book' records, in his home. It was selected and mailed by WPA library project worker." Interestingly, a talking book "not only talks and reads, but can present complete dramas with full Broadway casts, chirrup the bird songs and calls of wildlife, and in other ways take full advantage of the fact that it is written in sound" ("Talking Books for the Blind," The Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), January 26, 1940, p. 4). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: WPA Braille map-making project in Columbus, Ohio, December 1939. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The description for this photograph reads: "Sensitive fingertips lightly trace a geographic course over this WPA Braille map. Perkins Institute for the Blind, Watertown, Mass., July 22, 1936." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The New Deal built schools for the blind. This one is in Jacksonville, Illinois, and was funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA), ca. 1933-1941. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The desire for knowledge and information is universal, despite disability, as this WPA photo shows. The description for it reads: "Learning to read and write Braille is literally 'eaten up' by members of this group of blind adults in and around Atlanta." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: In New Deal-funded projects, the blind made baskets, brooms, rugs, brushes, and more; some of these products were distributed to low-income Americans. This is a WPA project at the Home for the Blind in Seattle. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

"It is a privilege to have a part in aiding the betterment of conditions for those who have been handicapped by lack of vision and, when I say lack of vision, I mean it in the purely physical sense because people who are blind certainly have a splendid vision in every other way."

--President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Greetings by Telephone to the American Foundation for the Blind, December 5, 1935

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

New Deal Art: "The Skiers," by Arthur Kerrick

Above: "The Skiers," a color lithograph by Arthur Kerrick (1901-1960), created while he was in the WPA, 1941. Kerrick served in the Navy during World War I, and then started a career in the arts, including teaching at the Minnetonka Art Center and the Walker Art Center (both in Minnesota). The website askART notes that "Kerrick was employed on one of the more unusual tasks of the WPA. In 1937, he and eleven other artists from across the US were sent to the Alaska territory by the project to paint the wilderness landscapes characteristic of the area." Today, you can see some of those paintings on the websites of the General Services Administration and the Smithsonian American Art MuseumImage courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

FDR, Edgar Altland, and Altland's poem "The Dawning of a Better Day"

Above: This is a sort of political flyer, probably printed and distributed by Edgar A. Altland (1872-1964). Altland was described in an obituary as a "historian, writer, and printer... A retired bricklayer and stone mason." When he died he was survived by 6 children, 22 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. ("Aged Printer Passes Away," The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), October 15, 1964, p. 2.) Image above scanned from a personal copy.

Above: Here is a poem by Altland on the back of the flyer (the next image is cropped closer, for easier reading). Image scanned from a personal copy.

Above: A closer view of Altland's poem, from the previous image.

Above: This photo of Altland is part of a longer article in The Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania), August 13, 1948, p. 33. The article reports that "Altland has met six presidents, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He had known Roosevelt since 1923 and has a large collection of private letters from the late president. During the late president's Memorial Day address at Gettysburg on May 30, 1934, he sat on the speaker's stand, and during the 1936 campaign he distributed over 600 copies of pictures of Roosevelt, printed on his own press, at the presidential rally at Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]." Photo above by the staff of The Gazette and Daily, from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: This is a sculpture that Altland donated to the York County Historical Society, a few years after FDR passed away. The artist who created the sculpture, Jo Davidson, apparently made several copies (or perhaps he gave permission for others artists to replicate it), and you can find them for sale online. Photo above by the staff of The Gazette and Daily (see article cited in the previous photo's caption), from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The New Deal built and improved American Indian schools. Today, we're letting them crumble.

Above: Very early on in the New Deal, funds started flowing towards American Indian infrastructure needs, for example, schools. The text above is part of a longer article from the newsletter Indians at Work, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, November 15, 1933, pp. 32-33. Notice that the article highlights how New Deal / PWA-funded schools would be moving away from the infamous boarding schools. 

Above: The WPA also assisted, building, improving, expanding, and repairing many American Indian schools. This is part of a longer article from the Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa), July 30, 1939, p. 18. Image from, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

A New Deal break in the inaction

In a Huffington Post article today, about crumbling American Indian schools, Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) stated, "We are trying to bring systematic change to the system that will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of Native children. We can push Congress and we can push the administration to make these investments because that's how you move the system after hundreds of years of inaction."  

Stansbury's sentiments are 100% spot-on. But her statement could use an additional sentence: "The New Deal was a break from that inaction, and we should have another New Deal for American Indian schools."

The Huffington Post article reports, "The appalling conditions faced by tribal schools and the children inside of them are a result of the U.S. government's failure to uphold its treaty obligations to Native American tribes, who gave up large swaths of land in exchange for the federal government guaranteeing investments in tribal communities to provide for their education and well-being. Congress has never provided sufficient funding for tribal schools, and their infrastructure shows it."

Again, we need a slight adjustment here. The New Deal Congress began to provide sufficient funding and attention for American Indian concerns, through the CCC, PWA, WPA, Indian Reorganization Act, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and other programs. But, as in so many other instances, subsequent generations of Americans backslid into the same tired routine of inaction, neglect, and laziness. They stopped having concern for their American Indian fellow citizens. They dropped the New Deal baton that was handed to them.

In the modern era, Americans have decided that it is more important that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have enough money to build a private set of spaceships--so the super-rich can experience the ultimate thrill ride--than it is for Congress to provide sufficient funding for American Indian schools. It's a sick, demented set of priorities - but perhaps the inevitable outcome of a plutocracy populated by apathetic,  misinformed, and in some cases, bigoted citizens.

(Also see, "Baltimore City Schools Without Air Conditioning Will Release Early Thursday," CBS Baltimore, June 2, 2022, and ask yourself: "How is it that, in the 21st century, so many K-12 schools don't have air conditioning - 120 years after the invention of air conditioning?)

Sunday, June 26, 2022

FDR delivered us privacy. Republicans want to take it away, and then leer into our bedrooms.

Busybody: "A person who pries into or meddles in the affairs of others." (

Above: "Private Road," an oil painting by George Henry Melcher (1881-1957), created while he was in the WPA, 1939. People need some degree of privacy; a place or mental state free from obnoxious busybodies. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "Named to Supreme Court. Washington, D.C., March 20 [1939]. William O. Douglas... was today nominated to the Supreme Court Bench by President Roosevelt. This picture of Douglas... was made today shortly after the announcement from the White House." Douglas would serve on the Court from 1939-1975. Photo by Harris & Ewing, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Douglas was a committed New Dealer and, over time, became increasingly interested in protecting civil liberties. Photo from The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine), January 1, 1938, from, and used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

FDR, William Douglas, and Privacy

FDR put William Douglas on the Supreme Court in 1939. And, like many other judicial instances, FDR's appointment led to increased equality and personal freedom. In Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479, 1965), the Supreme Court held that married people have the right to learn about and use contraception.

In the majority opinion, Douglas asked, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship. We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights older than our political parties, older than our school system."

And yet, here we are, well into the 21st century, and our Republican Supreme Court does indeed want the government to police our bedrooms. Republicans want to know: "Who are you married to? What are you doing in your bedroom? Did you put a condom on? I don't think I like that. Are you taking birth control? Let me see it - I need to see it. What kind of sex are you having? I need to know. Maybe I'll watch you two, to make sure you're not doing things I wouldn't do. Are you pregnant?? Oh wonderful, I now appoint myself as your family manager. You can email me your weekly reports."

In the recent abortion case, the Republican Justice Clarence Thomas expressly stated that it's time to overturn the Griswold ruling. However, Republican Justice Brett Kavanaugh tried to calm things down by writing, "First is the question of how this decision will affect other precedents involving issues such as contraception and marriage - in particular, the decisions in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965)... I emphasize what the Court today states: Overruling Roe does not mean the overruling of those precedents, and does not threaten or cast doubt on those precedents."

Nonsense. Some (if not all) of the Republican justices lied to get on the Court. They led Senators to believe that they would not overturn Roe, and then they did just that, without hesitation. Now they're telling us, "Hey, don't worry, we won't go any further. Trust us." Do you believe them? If so, the justices are also selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe you can buy that too.

What Kavanaugh and the others are likely doing is playing the long game - waiting until the furor of the recent decision dies down. Next, they will remove protections for same-sex marriage. Then for sex acts that can't result in pregnancy, for example, using contraceptives. You see, even something as simple as a condom sometimes had to be sold "under the counter" back in the day, lest the busybodies see you and call the police (see, "The Birth Control Controversy in Connecticut" eCommons, University of Dayton School of Law). 

And over the long-term, as Americans keep electing Republicans--in the name of "limited government"--our freedom and quality of life will continue to deteriorate. "Inter-racial marriages?? That's not in the Constitution. Stop it! Integrated schools?? Where does it say that? Go back to your colored schools! Social Security?? No, no, no... the general welfare means nothing, if it means anything. Back to the work houses and poor houses, you oldies!"

Make no mistake about it: A vote for a Republican (or not voting at all) is a self-destructive act against your privacy. You're inviting the government into your bedroom, to leer at you and take notes.

And it will be interesting to see, during the midterms, how many people are willing to give up their right to privacy, in the hopes of saving a few bucks at the gas pump, or to carry a pistol around like Wyatt Earp, or to "own the libs."

"I prefer and I am sure you prefer that broader definition of liberty under which we are moving forward to greater freedom, to greater security for the average man than he has ever known before in the history of America."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, "Fireside Chat," September 30, 1934.