Unfortunately, the New Deal failed to dislodge the deep structures of racism and racial hierarchy in America. That would have to wait for the Civil Rights movement a generation later—and the job is still far from complete. Nevertheless, a surprising number of New Deal programs were racially integrated, as the photos on this page show. While the New Deal’s sins of omission, like the National Labor Relations Act’s exclusion of farm and domestic workers, have been widely documented, there has been little appreciation of the way progressive New Dealers tried to subvert the existing racial order in programs like the CCC and WPA. (Scholars at Lewis University are also trying to correct the historical record with their photographic collection of integrated CCC projects in Illinois.)
We created this “Working Together” section to show the many instances in which the New Deal overcame racial segregation. Take a moment to look at these images, and note how many are of children. One of the most heartening aspects of this archive is the promise of future generations moving beyond racial division. We think it is a reflection of an era when Americans worked together to make their country a better place under enlightened leadership. Click here for a fuller perspective on these questions.
Thanks to Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Brent McKee for locating these images and coming up with the idea for this page.