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Tuesday CCC/WPA Blogging, Inaugural Edition: How do people not know this stuff?


CCC-built cabin in Bastrop State Park, via Sarah

How do people not know this stuff? she asks, speaking of the WPA.

That's an easy one to answer. It was 70+ years ago, and we have a President who is basically going around mis/disinforming people about it to boot.

Which means that the job of educating the youngsters, like so many other jobs, falls on our shoulders.

A Brief Primer

CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps [wikipedia]

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program for unemployed young men age 18-24, providing unskilled manual labor related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural areas of the United States from 1933 to 1942. As part of the New Deal legislation proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the CCC was designed to provide relief for unemployed youth who had a very hard time finding jobs during the Great Depression while implementing a general natural resource conservation program on public lands in every U.S. state, including the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The CCC became the most popular New Deal programs among the general public, providing jobs for a total of 3 million young men from families on relief.[1] Implicitly the CCC also led to awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and the nation's natural resources, especially for city youth.[2] The CCC was never considered a permanent program and depended on emergency and temporary legislation for its existence.[3] On June 30, 1942 Congress voted to eliminate funding for the CCC, formally ceasing active operation of the program.[4]

During the time of the CCC, volunteers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide that would become the start of most state parks, forest fire fighting methods were developed and a network of thousands of miles of public roadways and buildings were constructed connecting the nation's public lands. [5]

WPA, Works Progress Administration [wikipedia]

The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western populations. Expenditures from 1936 to 1939 totaled nearly $7 billion.[1]

Created by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA was funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935. The legislation had passed in the House of Representatives by a margin of 329 to 78, but was delayed by the Senate.[1]

The WPA continued and extended relief programs similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which was established by Congress in 1932 during the administration of Roosevelt's predecessor Herbert Hoover. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs.[2]

Until ended by Congress and war employment during 1943, the WPA was the largest employer in the country. Most people who needed a job were eligible for at least some of its jobs.[3] Hourly wages were the prevailing wages in each area; the rules said workers could not work more than 30 hours a week, but many projects included months in the field, with workers eating and sleeping on worksites. Before 1940, there was some training involved to teach new skills and the project's original legislation had a strong emphasis on training

And there were other government agencies providing jobs too, such as the NYA, but as a homework assignment, you can look those up for yourself. ;-)

For the self-reliant among us, and for those who believe that government should be working for us but aren't holding our breath waiting for this administration to get around to it, here's some background on cooperatives like the UXA and UCRO.

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Submitted by hipparchia on

i'll remember to do that with the next one.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

Thank you so much for this post! Sometimes we assume people know things despite our history being actively erased.

I'm from Warren, Ohio, and I never knew it was the scene (along with Youngstown) of major battles in the campaign to organize steel until long after I had left.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Am at jury duty but can't wait to dig into this more. I agree, this should be a regular feature. Even those of us who are decently well-informed can always learn more.

Submitted by hipparchia on

are going to be asked in the near future if they have anything they want to contribute... :)

Submitted by hipparchia on

no hurry... i've already got plans for at least two more posts, but at some point my knowledge is going to be drained, in part because there isn't [and never was] a lot from either program right here in this part of the country.

but do please be thinking on it in the background, and if there's any particular project that you'd like to claim first dibs on, please do!

that goes for anybody else too btw!

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

The CCC/WPA and TVA reshaped all of East Tennessee -- literally -- as well as many other places in the South. It's hard to believe that people have forgotten. Without the TVA system there could've been no Manhattan Project or ORNL let alone electrification of the rural South. I shudder to think where East Tennessee would be without TVA and all it brought with it.

My grandmother was still a girl when the CCC men came to her area. It's ironic that their work building lakes on land that was (prior to the TVA project and the CCC camp's arrival) part of her family farm would lead to her own work years later on the Manhattan Project.

Submitted by hipparchia on

My grandmother was still a girl when the CCC men came to her area. It's ironic that their work building lakes on land that was (prior to the TVA project and the CCC camp's arrival) part of her family farm would lead to her own work years later on the Manhattan Project.

it's great to see you again. i've been wondering what you were up to [something political iirc].

thanks for bringing up the tva. i'm not nearly as familiar with it as i should be, and if you want to blog about it, especially something about your grandmother's connection, i'd love to see that.

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

I didn't know if anyone would remember me. It's good to see you too! :D

I faded out last year mainly because I was sick all summer (some sort of mold reaction the docs couldn't figure out and bronchitis) but I have indeed been up to political stuff and I've been sponsoring that rare breed of animal known as a progressive East Tennessee Democrat! Check him out here and give him some love/likes. The online operation is just getting started and there will be more up soon.

I may do one on TVA (or a campaign diary if folks are interested in what it's like to run in E. TN and steal a district from the GOP) but I'm a little behind the curve on what's been going on around here on Corrente.

TVA's dams and energy production (built by the CCC) along with the water from the lakes were key to making the Manhattan Project possible later. FDR couldn't have planned it any better in terms of how important TVA lakes and energy ended up being both economically and later to the war effort.

The Manhattan Project had to have the uranium (which we had here in TN), the mountains (the unique ridge and valley type of the Appalachians) that protected from chain reaction explosions should one plant at Oak Ridge explode, the water for the plant and the energy. The family land was used to build one of the first TVA lakes -- there are no natural lakes in E. TN and only one in the entire state way out West. (But thanks to TVA and CCC workers we not only have lakes in E. TN but we have electricity!) Eventually, my grandmother ended up working on the war effort and on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge.

Submitted by hipparchia on

corrente is still a lot like it was when last you saw us.

we're pretty disgusted with the democratic party [as well as the republicans], but at least some of us would happily cheer on wellstone-type democrats trying to take back the party to benefit actual people. not everybody here believes it can be done, or that it's worth trying, but i'm all for a multi-pronged attack: more independents [like bernie sanders, of course], more third party [lefty ones, of course], more real democrats in the democratic party.

meanwhile, examples of govt being the solution, not the problem [because we need to still keep countering reagan's govt is the problem crap] are always welcome here, and sarah is responsible for my renewed interest in the ccc/wpa aspect of that, so i decided to try to launch something in that vein.

(or a campaign diary if folks are interested in what it's like to run in E. TN and steal a district from the GOP)

correnteans interested in insurgent politcs? nah, no way! [/snark]

i for one would love to hear about it.

oh and bronchitis is teh suxxor. i had a couple of bouts of it this past winter.

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

lol. You got me good with teh snark! And I'm glad Corrente hasn't changed. Blogging the campaign is something I've been pondering because I think chronicling the run will be good not just for the campaign but also for folks interested in what it's really like out here -- there's so much misinformation and mystery about Appalachia. The district we're talking about is classified as economically "at-risk" by the Appalachian Regional Commission but it's fallen all the way back to "distressed" with the current crisis. A good piece of it is coal country while the other piece doesn't even have that and the district hasn't seen real representation that addresses our interests in ages.

To give you an idea using some reference points most here on Corrente will be familiar with, the area which is in East Tennessee (TN-36) is about hour and half's drive to Harlan Co. Ky, where Rep. Louise Slaughter is originally from and where the Union Anthem "Which Side Are You On?" was written and where the documentary Harlan County USA was filmed.

It's here, in NE Tennessee where it's time to put politics to the test and I'm utterly convinced that we can win. This area is unique and we've already encountered some interesting happenings worth talking about. I guess since I wouldn't be representing myself, I may need to ask Lambert about opening up a new account? That way I can do both without worrying about any conflicts.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i sent lambert an email asking him what he thinks, but don't let that stop tou from sending him one too [if it's something you'd like to blog about]