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The Living New Deal offers periodic webinars (online lectures and panels) featuring lively discussions of New Deal topics, past and present. The webinars began as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they turn out to have the added virtue of allowing us to reach a wider national audience through Zoom and Facetime. We will continue to offer webinars as a complement to live talks, exhibits and other events by both our West Coast team and our New York City branch. Find upcoming webinars and watch past webinars.

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Ranger of the Lost Art
April 16, 2024

While a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park, Doug Leen salvaged a New Deal-era park poster destined for the burn pile. It led him on a decades-long quest to find and preserve the original thirteen WPA park poster designs and spurred the creation of Ranger Doug Enterprises. Learn about the WPA poster division, Doug’s ongoing search for the still-missing national park poster designs and his new book, Rediscovering the WPA Posters of Our National Parks.

Folk Music and the New Deal: Collecting the Hidden Soundtracks of the Great Depression
March 26, 2024

Most people are familiar with the New Deal’s legacy in the visual arts, but the soundtracks left by its folk music collecting activities have remained largely unknown. Through the Music Unit hidden within the Resettlement Administration and the WPA’s California Folk Music Project, pioneering collector Sidney Robertson Cowell amassed hundreds of recordings, providing new insights into multicultural America.

A New Deal for Quilts 
with Author Janneken Smucker,
February 29, 2024

A New Deal for Quilts (University of Nebraska Press, 2023) explores the ways quilts became a powerful form of communication in government relief and public relations efforts and as expressions of quilt makers hopes for better times. Author Janneken Smucker, herself a 5th generation quilt maker, is professor of History at West Chester University in Philadelphia, specializing in digital and public history and material culture.

Unions from the Wagner Act to the New Labor Movement
with Kevin Baker, Kate Bronfenbrenner, Jeff Gold, Michelle Kuchinsky, Rebecca Damon & Gracie Nira
December 18, 2023
NYC Chapter

Living in the Future: Interracial Experiments & Activism that Influenced New Deal Programs
with Victoria Wolcott & Kimberley Johnson
October 10, 2023

In this webinar, Professor Victoria Wolcott discusses her book, ‘Living In The Future: Uptopianism and the Long Civil Rights Movement’, with NYU Professor Kimberley Johnson. Wolcott’s ‘Living In The Future’ won the 2022 New Deal Book Award. In it, she weaves together strands of history and describes utopian interracial activist and cooperative movements that preceded and coincided with the New Deal era. Many New Deal programs drew on the lessons of these movements. Brave individuals pressed for radical changes amidst the prevailing racial segregation and eventually coalesced in the Civil Rights Movement.

Social Security: Demographics, Economics, Politics & its Future
with Kevin Baker, Douglas Arnold & Nancy Altman
Jun 29, 2023
NYC Chapter

This expert roundtable explores Social Security, from its New Deal inception, growth and adaptation through the decades to current challenges and future prospects. Kevin Baker speaks on Social Security’s inception, followed by Douglas Arnold on Social Security’s growth, and adaptations to the present. Nancy Altman focuses on current challenges Social Security faces. The panelists, along with moderator Teresa Ghilarducci, will explore and debate how Social Security can meet the challenges it faces through in this period. Social Security is a Third Rail of American politics because of its popularity, but it’s also facing demographic, economic and political challenges. In 2034 Social Security’s Trust Fund built up over decades by past surpluses will be exhausted. This will cause a gap between that year’s Social Security tax revenues and benefits due, if no changes are made. Social Security tax revenues will then cover only 80% of benefits due, leaving a 20% gap. This challenge was faced in past decades and changes were made to close the gap. We will explore the mix of changes to not only close this gap, but to fortify and expand Social Security by boosting revenue and expanding benefits. The greatest impediment is political, amidst opposing agendas. This webinar will explore the way forward in the tradition of the New Deal.

Transforming the Nation’s Food System: Lessons from the New Deal and Strategies for Today
with Kate MacKenzie, Annette Nielsen, Jan Poppendieck & Myron Thurston
NYC CHAPTER, March 2023

Roosevelt House and Living New Deal’s NYC Chapter are pleased to present an expert roundtable to explore how federal policy initiatives can spur revitalization of regional agriculture, better conditions for farm and food-processing workers, more equitable food distribution, and improved nutrition for all Americans — measures that recall successful New Deal programs.

COVID-19, the Great Depression, and the Battle between Memory and Forgetting
with Dave Chokshi, MD, Sharon Musher & Karen Kruse Thomas
NYC CHAPTER, December 2022

Both the Great Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic raised profound questions about government responsibility for public health and welfare, but cultural and political responses to each differed dramatically.Join With Dave Chokshi, MD, Sharon Musher, Karen Kruse Thomas, and moderator Robert Snyder on medicine, public health and the New Deal for a conversation about the history and politics of remembering and forgetting, and their implications for how we think about our past and future in light of COVID.

Reality Makes Them Dream: Revisiting New Deal-Era Photography
with Josie Johnson & Emilia Mickevicius
December, 2022

Photography from the New Deal-era is often associated with mirroring the bleak realities of the Great Depression. Yet, the photography is remarkably varied, using the raw material of the visible world as a point of departure for viewers’ imaginations, venturing into the poetic and surreal. Join us as we examine how the works of WPA photographers like Sybil Anikeef, Sonya Noskowiak, Edward Weston and others complicate and add dimension to understanding art and culture in the US in the 1930s.

Town Destroyer
with Deborah Kauffman & Allen Snitow
November 2022

What happens when art no longer reflects current societal views? This is the focus of “Town Destroyer,” a film about the New Deal muralist Victor Arnautoff’s 1936 work, “The Life of Washington,” and how a high school mural became a media firestorm. Filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman join us to discuss the film, which feature students, historians, artists, activists—and the Living New Deal, which strongly opposed censoring the mural. 

Painting the Mail
Post Office Art of the New Deal

with Barbara Bernstein
November 2022

Post Office artworks are increasingly imperiled as post offices are sold and repurposed. Barbara Bernstein, the Living New Deal’s Public Art Specialist and founder of the New Deal Art Registry, offers a vision for the reuse of these buildings that preserves both the artworks and the sense of community that post offices can provide.

Ill-Housed, Then and Now
with Adam Roberts, Gail Radford, Rob Robinson, Samuel Stein & Mason Williams
NYC CHAPTER, November 2022

Linking history with the present moment, the roundtable will go beyond abstraction and dive into a wide range of topics, including shortages, affordability, evictions, and homelessness – giving “teeth” to the principle of decent shelter for all as a fundamental and universal human right.

The Unfinished Business of the New Deal
with Kevin Baker, Teresa Ghilarducci, Toure Reed, Darrick Hamilton & Phil Harvey
NYC CHAPTER, October 2022

The New Deal transformed America, putting in place policies, programs, and massive building projects that endure to this day. From Social Security to bank deposit insurance and from the TVA to your local school and post office—all of these and more came into being during this period of spectacular growth and innovation. But what was left undone? Consider the Four Freedoms and FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights speech, and you begin to get a sense of the world the New Dealers envisioned and hoped to realize. This discussion identifies both the actual and aspirational gaps between what was done and what wasn’t—what has endured and what has fallen by the wayside—and suggest what progressives can do today to fulfill the New Deal’s promise and vision.

The Federal Theatre: Revisiting the Dream
with Susan Quinn & Dan Jacobs
October 2022

The Federal Theater Project put starving unemployed actors, directors, set designers, stagehands and writers back to work. Susan Quinn and Dan Jacobs retell the story in their play called Enter Hallie, which intertwines Federal Theater Director Hallie Flanagan’s private struggles with her public quest to create innovative theater for hundreds of thousands. Susan and Dan will mix readings from the play with a discussion of Federal Theater history, as told in Quinn’s book, Furious Improvisation.

New Deal Photography Through the Lens of Arthur Rothstein
with Dr. Annie Rothstein Segan
May 2022

At age 20, New York photographer Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) began documenting the Great Depression. His many images for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) depict struggles that persist today. Presenter Dr. Annie Rothstein Segan is director of the Arthur Rothstein Legacy Project, New York.

Art and Intersections: The Harlem Renaissance Meets the New Deal
with Dr. Stephanie Anne Johnson
April 2022

The Harlem Renaissance stands as one of the most important art movements in American history. The years 1918-1937 saw an outpouring of music, theatre, literature and visual art from this historical Black neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. Federal “relief” dollars employed hundreds of Black visual artists, both on public art projects and as instructors at the WPA-funded community art centers that nourished the Harlem arts movement. With Dr. Stephanie Anne Johnson.

Los Tres Grandes—Mexican Muralists’ Influence on the Artists of the WPA
with Harold Porcher
March 2022

With Harold Porcher, Director of Modern & Post-War Art at Swann Auction Galleries in New York. Post-revolution art in Mexico wielded strong influence over American artists. Many who drew inspiration from Mexican muralists went on to work for the WPA’s artist programs. Free.

Preparing for War: How the New Deal Helped America Join the Fight Against Fascism and Win World War II
with Bob Leighninger & Kevin Baker
NYC CHAPTER, February 2022

It is often said that the New Deal didn’t end the Depression—the war did. But Baker and Leighninger contend that the opposite is the case. The many programs devised by the Roosevelt Administration to combat the Great Depression also provided the personnel, infrastructure, and experience that allowed the country to respond to the expansionist aims of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan swiftly and effectively, turning the tide in favor of the Allies and ultimately winning the war.

A New Deal for Native Art
with Dr. Jennifer McLerran
February 2022

With Dr. Jennifer McLerran, author of A New Deal for Native Art: Indian Arts and Federal Policy, 1933–1943 and A New Deal for Navajo Weaving—Reform and Revival of Dine Textiles, to be published in May. The New Deal promoted indigenous arts and crafts as a means of bootstrapping Native American artists. But New Deal administrators’ romanticization of indigenous arts predisposed them to favor traditional over contemporary artistic expression.

The New Deal Artistry of Jo Mora
with Peter Hiller & Harvey Smith
January 2022

With Peter Hiller and Harvey Smith. Adventurer, author and artist of the American West, Jo Mora worked as a cowboy, a guard on a Mexican railroad, and lived with the Hopi in Arizona before settling in California, where he briefly worked for the Federal Art Project. Read more about Mora. Featuring Peter Hiller, Jo Mora Collection Curator and author of The Life and Times of Jo Mora: Iconic Artist of the American West and Historian Harvey Smith, Project Advisor to the Living New Deal.

Biden’s Civilian Conservation Corps: Lessons from the Original CCC
with Neil Maher

The Living New Deal hosts Neil Maher, author of the award-winning book, Nature’s New Deal—The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement. (Oxford University Press, 2008)

The Next New Deal: Why the New Deal Matters
with Eric Rauchway & Lizabeth Cohen
September 2021

Webinar Series “The Next New Deal“: “Why the New Deal Matters” (Yale University Press) – A conversation with Eric Rauchway and Lizabeth Cohen about how the New Deal fundamentally changed American life, and why it remains relevant today.

The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Federal Writers’ Project
with Scott Borchert & David Kipen
August 2021

Scott Borchert, author of Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America, and writer David Kipen explore the Federal Writers’ Project—from its optimistic early days to its dismemberment by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to the “culture wars” today.

Pools, Parks, and the New Deal in Greater New York
with Robert W. Snyder, Marta Gutman & Rose Harvey
NYC CHAPTER, June 2021

The New Deal built a network of parks and recreation facilities that still enriches life in the New York metropolitan area. Maintaining and extending this inheritance has meant confronting both racial discrimination and budget cuts. Join us as we explore the New Deal’s legacy for our region’s parks and contemporary efforts to build parks for communities that lack green space.

Ill-housed: Housing policy for the New Deal and Today
with Deborah Gardner, Matthew Gorden Lasner & Jenny Schuetz
NYC CHAPTER, June 2021

Eighty-five years ago, as a result of the Great Depression, America suffered an acute housing crisis. How did the New Deal respond, and what lessons can we take away from its successes and failures to help address the current housing crisis? For low, moderate, and middle-income families, the current crisis had its origins in the 2008 recession and was disastrously exacerbated by the pandemic, which brought with it increased evictions and homelessness. What are the proposals being put forth to address immediate and long-term housing needs, and what chance do they have of being enacted? How do those proposals address financial as well as racial inequities in the housing market? Our speakers will provide an overview of the New Deal’s innovative housing programs for urban, suburban, rural, and migrant families; and then examine current plans for financing and building housing, as well as ensuring the equitable distribution of housing assets.

Reigniting the Spirit of the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project
with Susan Rubenstein DeMasi, David Kipen & Fern L. Nesson
May 2021

The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), launched in 1935 under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), employed thousands of out-of-work writers, researchers, historians and librarians during the Great Depression. The FWP produced hundreds of publications, including  the American Guides to states and cities. Congress largely defunded the FWP in 1939 after the House UnAmerican Activities Committee accused it of having communist sympathies. 

Speakers: Susan Rubenstein DeMasi is a freelance writer and the author of “Henry Alsberg: The Driving Force of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project.” David Kipen, former book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and Director of Literature for the National Endowment of the Arts, David authored the introductions to four American Guides reissued by UC Press. Fern L. Nesson, an attorney and fine arts photographer, uses her collection of American Guides on road trips, which she chronicles in her column, “Travels with the WPA State Guides,”  featured on the Living New Deal’s website. 

The New Deal and Far-Right Extremism: Saving the Republic
with Kevin Baker, Margaret Crane & Jeff Gold
NYC CHAPTER, March 2021

Picture an America in which an angry crowd of radical veterans surround the Capitol and are dispersed only with tear gas and gunfire. An America in which a disgruntled Marine general is approached about leading a coup to overturn an election; in which right-wing fanatics hoard weapons, set up paramilitary and youth indoctrination camps around the country, and encourage children to turn in undocumented immigrants. An America in which a ranting demagogue sends his followers into the streets to assault Jews and spread stories of foreign subversion. Where a clownish, would-be president plots to grab the White House by forming his own third party and splitting the vote. Where the most outlandish conspiracy theories and the wildest rumors are spread everywhere about the president, his wife and children, and his most trusted advisors.

No, we’re not talking about America today but America in the 1930s, when the Bonus Army marched on Washington, the fascist “Silver Shirts” set up a Manson-like compound outside Los Angeles, millions tuned in to hear Father Coughlin spread his anti-Semitic poison over the airwaves, and American Nazis set up such a large youth camp on Long Island that the Long Island Railroad had to run special trains to it from Grand Central Station every weekend. Learn about just how extremist America could be, back when Donald Trump was still just a twinkle in his father’s eye—and Fred Christ Trump was still just a home-building Klansman in Queens.

Hear the sort-of-shocking, sort-of-reassuring story of how the country held on during the ultimate stress test of the Great Depression and the approach to World War II. It’s the story of how we saved democracy before—and how we might do it again.

Health of a Nation: Past Inspirations, Recent Lessons and Equitable Planning for the Future
with Carmelita Blake, Deborah Gardner & Donald Moore
NYC CHAPTER February 2021

Among its many achievements, the New Deal devoted significant resources to improving public health. Join our panel as they explore this forgotten history and seek ways to address the public health challenges we face today.

Art and Activisim: Posters for Social Change
with Lincoln Cushing, Ennis Carter & Max Slavkin
January 2021

Our first webinar of the year, on January 7 brought together leading experts on the role of posters in social movements. Lincoln Cushing, an artist, archivist and author based in Berkeley. Lincoln discussed the history of posters as tools of social change. Ennis Carter, founding director of Philadelphia-based DfSI/Social Impact Studios and author of Posters for the People, talked about posters of the WPA. She maintains an online archive of thousands of posters created during the New Deal era. Max Slavkin, is co-founder and CEO of Creative Action Network, which runs crowdsourced, caused-based campaigns and an online marketplace for art with purpose. Max’s book, Posters for a Green New Deal, features 50 original pull-out posters by artists worldwide. Susan Ives, who directs the Living New Deal’s Communications, moderated the discussion.

From the Original New Deal to the Green New Deal
with Kevin Baker, Robert Kuttner, Mitchell Silver, Deborah Gardner, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Elisa Iturbe & Billy Fleming
NYC CHAPTER, September 2020

Starting out as a set of aspirational policy objectives, the Green New Deal has rapidly gained traction among policymakers, change agents, and the public. It draws its inspiration from the New Deal, which offers a compelling model for tackling the challenges ahead. Our distinguished speakers will lead a discussion about the economic, environmental, social, and political changes that many of us want to see and be part of..

Living New Deal. Still Working for America.

And the Winners are . . .

FDR delivering one of his fireside chats.

The 2023 New Deal Book Award

The winning titles and authors have been announced. The 2023 Award, with a prize of $1,000, will be presented at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library June 22, 2024.