Lessons for a Green New Deal

Lessons for a Green New Deal

Though our nation faces critical challenges–political, economic, and environmental— the New Deal holds important lessons for a better future. Inspired by the original New Deal, a Green New Deal is emerging as a way forward. A new generation of leaders is demanding an all-out response to climate change and calling upon government to address economic and social inequality in the process. This is where the Living New Deal can help. Lessons from the New Deal offer hope and a path toward renewal. You’ll find inspiration in the stories in this issue of our newsletter. You can also learn more about the Green New Deal at our website, which topped a million views in 2019! And and we hope you will join us at our New Deal talks, tours, and special events in the year ahead.

Your generosity keeps the lessons of the New Deal alive. As ever, we are grateful for your support. Thank you!

The artist must be a critic of his society

The artist must be a critic of his society

In June, the San Francisco the Board of Education voted unanimously to destroy thirteen murals at George Washington High School it deems “racist.” Commissioned by the Federal Art Project in 1935, the frescoes depicting the life of the school’s namesake cover the walls and ceiling of the school’s main entrance. Victor Arnautoff painted Washington as son, surveyor, general, and president. He also showed him as a slaveowner and pointing colonists westward over the body of an Indian. Arnautoff’s murals are at odds with American mythology even today. “The artist must be a critic of his society,” he once said. There’s not a cherry tree is in sight.

The school board voted to “paint down” artworks that some parents say dehumanize and traumatize African American and Native American students. Historians, politicians, civil rights leaders, free-speech activists, authors, actors, and artists defend the murals, arguing that history needs to be taught, not whitewashed. The debate has drawn international media attention. In the face of growing condemnation, the school board last month reversed itself. It decided not to destroy the murals, it plans instead to install panels to permanently hide them at an estimated cost of more than $800,000. Mural advocates are weighing political and legal options. Stay tuned.

We are especially thankful for your advocacy and support!

Was the New Deal Racist?

The words “freedom and justice for all,” are recited daily across America, even as we as a nation have historically fallen far short. The New Dealers faced the daunting task of overcoming long-established patterns of racial order. Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins and many others were outspoken critics of such discrimination and made a systematic effort to include people of color in New Deal programs. FDR himself proclaimed, “We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.” Their overall achievement was impressive, if far from perfect. As the struggle for racial and economic justice continues, the New Deal’s lessons—for better and sometimes worse—are for learning. You’ll find some of them here.
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Green New Dealers Turn Up the Heat

When FDR ran for president in 1932 promising a new deal for the American people, no one quite knew what a New Deal would be. His plan for fighting the Great Depression was long on hope and short on details. Many of the ideas were untried. But nearly everyone agreed that more needed to be done to meet the economic, humanitarian, and environmental crisis. Most were ready to try anything that might work.

Many then in Congress branded the New Deal as “socialist,” claiming it was unaffordable and unattainable—just as they’re doing now in response to the Green New Deal. FDR was undeterred. “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another,” he said. The spirit of experimentation, innovation, and grit of the New Deal offers both hope and a model for meeting our biggest, greenest challenges today.

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Rekindling the Spark of the New Deal

Rekindling the Spark of the New Deal
Last month, at our first-ever conference,“Women and the Spirit of the New Deal,” we welcomed writers, artists, scholars, labor leaders, elected officials, and activists to UC Berkeley to partake in the lessons, inspiration, and practical wisdom to be found in the unsung “she-roes” of the New Deal. More and more women today are following in their footsteps–taking leadership in government and civil society, working for social justice, health, education, and the environment. Might this spark a return to the kind of leadership women brought to the New Deal?

We hope you will be inspired by the stories in this edition of our newsletter and those you’ll find at our ever-expanding website, Livingnewdeal.org logged a record half million visits in 2018!

The New Deal spark is catching fire! As always, thank you for your generous support.

Be a Nuisance Where It Counts

Be a Nuisance Where It Counts
This summer, we’re working to fill a significant gap in the New Deal’s backstory—the role of women and their lasting impact on the social welfare of the nation. In collaboration with the Frances Perkins Center and the National New Deal Preservation Association we’ll be hosting “Women and the Spirit of the New Deal,” a conference at UC Berkeley on October 5 and 6. We’ve lined up a number of leading lights—authors, scholars, historians, activists, and political leaders—to share their knowledge and perspectives. We want everyone who’s interested to attend, regardless of ability to pay. If you can donate or become a co-sponsor, we would be grateful for your support.

As you’ll find in our Summer newsletter, the Living New Deal continues to inspire and support efforts to recognize and preserve the New Deal legacy. Thank you for making our work possible.

Brechin to Speak at SFMOMA

On Thursday, April 26 at 6:00 pm, LND’s Gray Brechin will speak at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Together with Abad Ocubillo, a senior planner from the SF Planning Department, Gray will discuss what the landscape tells us about urban history, how planning initiatives reveal the city’s power structure, and in what ways the face of the city is changing today. He will also mention the exciting news that an enormous WPA scale model of San Francisco, long gathering dust in storage, will be cleaned and reassembled as an SFMOMA public art project. The event is in the Koret Education Center on the museum’s second floor. Admission is free. Click here for more information.

Where in the World is Evan?

Evan Kalish recently returned from New York, where the Living New Deal has catalogued more than 100 school buildings financed in part by the Public Works Administration. LND identified most of these buildings using PWA documents, newspaper articles, and other materials from the era. There are historical photos of more than 30 of these projects, including many scanned at the National Archives. These often-Colonial Revival-style schools are plentiful throughout the northeast, and Evan has photographed nearly two dozen of them in Upstate New York. Fortunately, Evan found that most of these buildings confirm their pedigree with a cornerstone or PWA plaque. Visit the site for more information about these projects.

Living New Deal Welcomes National Associate, Eveline Evans

The Living New Deal recently added a new Texas National Associate to its team . Eveline Evans is a native of Nebraska but has lived in Central Texas for over 45 years. She became interested in the New Deal when she first stumbled upon a WPA mural in a post office. She started researching and found many other types of New Deal projects that interested her. When she travels, she checks the Living New Deal website to see if there are any sites she can visit. If she finds one that has not yet been listed, she documents it so that others can enjoy the New Deal legacy. The Living New Deal now has forty-seven National Associates, all of whom are volunteers willing to help us document the New Deal in their region. Eveline, thank you for your efforts and welcome to the team!

The Living New Deal Surpasses 15,000 Mapped Sites!

The Living New Deal website has now surpassed 15,000 distinct, mapped sites across the United States and its territories. Several states and cities also recently hit milestones:
New York State: 1,600 sites
New York City: 800 sites
Texas: 700 sites
Pennsylvania: 500 sites
New Jersey: 500 sites
Ohio: 300 sites
Maine: 250 sites
Washington State: 250 sites
West Virginia: 225 sites
Vermont: 150 sites
New Hampshire: 150 sites
Thank you to all our contributors.
Onward to 16,000!