Wednesday, February 3, 2016
The WPA at the Delta National Wildlife Refuge... and our collective amnesia
Above: The description for this photo reads, "The mail boat leaving for up-river points on the Mississippi after making a call at the WPA quarter boat barracks camp. This mail boat is sole means of communication betweeen the Delta Refuge and the outerworld." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.
Above: The description for this photo reads, "A view of the new US Biological survey station being built at the site of the old US Quarantine station on the Delta Refuge. The photo shows the 'quarter boats' tied up to the newly built wharf; the teel and warehouse; four smaller buildings for permanent personnel of the station and the new office building and resident manager's home now under construction. The construction work is a project of the WPA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.
Above: The description for this photo reads, "Nurse Clara Finnessey aiding a patient of the WPA worker's camp, LA. Delta Refuge." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.
The photos above show a time period in American history where policymakers actually cared about the common good. Public jobs for the unemployed? A government-paid nurse for the unemployed? A wildlife refuge developed by the unemployed? A refuge that still benefits us today? (Biodiversity, public fishing & hunting, kayaking, wildlife observation & photography). To most Americans living today, these things probably sound quite foreign. We have been subjected to so much trickle-down economics, and inundated with so much empty-headed praise for the "job creators," and bombarded with so much anti-government rhetoric, that there simply isn't much room left for the truth of history. If you stopped someone on the sidewalk and asked, "What was the Works Progress Administration?", they'd likely say, "I have no idea."
I would suggest that the largest work & construction program in American history--which the WPA was--should be required learning in both K-12 and college. And not just a passing mention, or a right-wing dismissal, but an in-depth analysis of all that they created and all that we still utilize today.