The term “New Deal” was coined during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech, when he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” Roosevelt summarized the New Deal as a “…use of the authority of government as an organized form of self-help for all classes and groups and sections of our country.”

  • African Americans and the CCCThe Emergency Conservation Work Act establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps was signed into law by President Roosevelt on March 31, 1933. Under the direction of Robert Fechner, the CCC employed young men between the ages of 17 and 23 in work camps where they were assigned to various conservation projects. Enrollees were paid thirty dollars a month, twenty-five dollars of which was sent home to the enrollee's families. From 1933 to 1942, over three million young men enrolled in the CCC, including 250,000 African Americans who were enrolled in nearly 150 all-black CCC companies.
  • Are We Overlooking the Pursuit of Happiness?"...For the old people who have lived so long a life of independence, how bitter it must be to come for everything they need to the youngsters who once turned to them! From every point of view, it seems to me that the old age pension for people who so obviously could not lay aside enough during their working years to live on adequately through their old age, is a national responsibility and one that must be faced when we are planning for a better future. Unemployment insurance in many homes is all that stands between many a family and starvation. Given a breathing spell, a man or woman may be able to get another job or to re-educate himself in some new line of work, but few people live with such a wide margin that they have enough laid aside to face several months of idleness...."
  • Art Becomes Public WorksThe public now owns, at a cost of less than a million and a half dollars, about fifteen thousand new works of art. These range from prints, which can be issued in some quantity, to what seems to be the most ambitious of the undertakings, the decoration of the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, in which forty-four artists and their assistants were engaged. Actually 3671 men and women were employed, for varying periods of time, in the less than five months' duration of the Public Works of Art Project. Except where sketches for special pieces of work had to be passed on in advance, the artists worked with complete freedom. The general assignment was the American scene.
  • Assistance for the Disabled"...People know well that restoring one of us cripples--because as some of you know, I walk around with a cane and with the aid of somebody's arm myself--to useful occupation costs money. Being crippled is not like many other diseases, contagious and otherwise, where the cure can be made in a comparatively short time; not like the medical operation where one goes to the hospital and at the end of a few weeks goes out made over again and ready to resume life. People who are crippled take a long time to be put back on their feet--sometimes years, as we all know...."
  • Black Richmond, VA - 1934 Significant straws in the wind point to social changes in Black Richmond. The findings of the Negro Welfare Survey, of which Mrs. Guild was director, the new Negro Welfare Council and the coming in of federal relief are outstanding factors in new racial attitudes in this colored city within a city. During 1928 and 1929 a Negro welfare survey was conducted in Richmond by a bi-racial committee, employing a Negro and white staff, under the auspices of the Council of Social Agencies. In itself this was an accomplishment in racial progress, if it be remembered that we are talking about the Capital of the Confederacy. The survey was not the result of sudden realization on the part of the community that almost a third of its population was miserably handicapped in every department of life and holding back the other two thirds. The survey simply represented the vision of a few social workers who needed a practical answer to a perplexing question: What are the priorities in the social problems pressing for attention in Black Richmond?
  • Children WantedBACK IN 1932, Helen's father, who worked in a cotton garment factory, was laid-off "because of hard times." Helen, aged thirteen, the eldest of five children, stopped school and got a job in the factory. Her wage was $2.50 for a fifty-hour week. She tried to keep up her school work at night. After the NRA underwear code went into effect, the factory hands under sixteen years of age were let out, Helen's father was taken on again, and Helen went back to school. But the code did not last long. It ceased to function when the U. S. Supreme Court declared the Recovery Act unconstitutional. Within a few months the factory laid off many of its adult workers, Helen's father among them. Helen, now fifteen years old and a high-school sophomore, again put aside her books to become a wage earner. When Helen was interviewed in the course of a survey in April 1936, she was working a fifty-two-hour week for $4.15, just under 8 cents an hour. A younger brother and sister were also working. Her father was still unemployed. "I don't expect I'll ever get back to school," she said.
  • Civilian Conservation CorpsThe Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the most successful New Deal programs of the Great Depression. It existed for fewer than 10 years, but left a legacy of strong, handsome roads, bridges, and buildings throughout the United States. Between 1933 and 1941, more than 3,000,000 men served in the CCC. The effects of service in the CCC were felt for years, even decades, afterwards. Following the depression, when the job market picked up, businessmen indicated a preference for hiring a man who had been in the CCC, and the reason was simple. Employers believed that anyone who had been in the CCC would know what a full day's work meant, and how to carry out orders in a disciplined way.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps Accomplishments: 1939 The CCC, also known as Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” was credited with renewing the nation’s decimated forests by planting an estimated three billion trees from 1933 to 1942. This was crucial, especially in states affected by the dust storms where reforestation was necessary to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil in place. So far reaching was the CCC’s reforestation program that it was responsible for more than half the reforestation, public and private, accomplish in the nation’s history.
  • Committee on Economic Security - 1934The President's Committee on Economic Security (CES) was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising "recommendations concerning proposals which in its judgment will promote greater economic security." In a message to Congress two weeks earlier President Roosevelt spelled-out what he expected the CES to achieve. ". . . I am looking for a sound means which I can recommend to provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life--especially those which relate to unemployment and old age."
  • Coughlin, Father CharlesFather Coughlin's influence on Depression-era America was enormous. In the early 1930s, Coughlin was, arguably, one of the most influential men in America. Millions of Americans listened to his weekly radio broadcast. At the height of his popularity, one-third of the nation was tuned into his weekly broadcasts.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938On May 24, 1937, President Roosevelt sent the bill to Congress with a message that America should be able to give "all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day's pay for a fair day's work." He continued: "A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling worker's wages or stretching workers' hours."
  • FDR's Essentials for Unemployment Relief: 1933One of the obstacles to creating unemployment relief programs as part of the President's New Deal was the widespread feeling that in this land of opportunity, any individual could find some way to maintain himself and his dependents without relief if only he would exert the necessary initiative and effort. Therefore, it was with only the greatest reluctance that the American public in general and legislative bodies in particular came gradually to accept that fact that as a result of the Great Depression there were actually too few jobs to go around.
  • Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933...Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress hereby declares that the present economic depression has created a serious emergency, due to widespread unemployment and increasing inadequacy of State and local relief funds, resulting in the existing or threatened deprivation of a considerable number of families and individuals of the necessities of life, and making it imperative that the Federal Government cooperate more effectively with the several States and Territories and the District of Columbia in furnishing relief to their needy and distressed people....
  • From the Ground Up: 1936An informal description of demonstration projects of the Resettlement Administration on the West Coast during the Great Depression.
  • Harry Hopkins and Work Relief During the Great DepressionHarry Hopkins' New Deal work relief and jobs programs, designed to overcome the economic devastation wrought by the Great Depression during the 1930s, included the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
  • Health Conservation and the WPAThe Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created by Executive Order #7034 on May 6, 1935. President Roosevelt had the authority for this Executive Order via the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. The WPA was created to offer direct government employment to the jobless. The unemployment rate was about 20% at the time the WPA was created. The WPA lasted until June 30, 1943. The unemployment rate then was possibly below 2%, with many Americans working in the armed services, defense industries, etc. The WPA–during it’s 8 years of existence–employed over 8.5 million different Americans, and reached peak employment of over 3.3 million in late 1938.
  • Homesteaders—New StyleFarm Security Administration's experiment in resettling southern tenants on land of their own, here described by a recent visitor to several projects, demonstrates that, given a boost by government, America's poorest pioneers can rise from relief to self-support.
  • National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)With enactment of the NIRA, the administration was empowered to make voluntary agreements dealing with hours of work, rates of pay, and the fixing of prices. Until March 1934, the NRA was engaged chiefly in drawing up these industrial codes for all industries to adopt. More than 500 codes of fair practice were adopted for the various industries. Patriotic appeals were made to the public, and firms were asked to display the Blue Eagle, an emblem signifying NRA participation.
  • National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933Economists, scholars, politicians, and the public at large were deeply divided as to the underlying causes of the Great Depression and the best means to bring it to an end. In the months following Roosevelt's inauguration, his advisers, along with members of Congress and representatives from business and labor, drafted the legislation that was introduced in Congress on May 15, 1933, as the National Industrial Recovery Act. The division of opinions about the Depression was reflected in those who drafted NIRA, and the act drew both praise and criticism from across the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the urgency of the economic situation (with unemployment exceeding 30 percent in many parts of the country) pressured Congress to act.
  • National Industrial Recovery Act: FDR's Statement - 1933The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) was one of the most important and daring measures of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It was enacted during the famous First Hundred Days of his first term in office and was the centerpiece of his initial efforts to reverse the economic collapse of the Great Depression. NIRA was signed into law on June 16, 1933, and was to remain in effect for two years. It attempted to make structural changes in the industrial sector of the economy and to alleviate unemployment with a public works program. It succeeded only partially in accomplishing its goals, and on May 27, 1935, less than three weeks before the act would have expired, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
  • National Youth Administration: The College and High School Aid ProgramBy 1938, the National Youth Administration served 327,000 high school and college youth, who were paid from $6 to $40 a month for "work study" projects at their schools. Another 155,000 boys and girls from relief families were paid $10 to $25 a month for part-time work that included job training. Unlike the CCC, it included young women. The youth normally lived at home, and worked on construction or repair projects
  • National Youth OrganizationOn the closing of NYA President Roosevelt wrote in a letter to Aubrey Williams: "...I can well understand your statement that you leave the N.Y.A. with regret. I, too, regret the termination of this great activity for American youth. Nevertheless, while Congress brought an end to the N.Y.A.'s existence nothing can end the long results of its usefulness. It would be difficult to evaluate the proportions of the resource which this training of young men and women has been to America in the war crisis. You have a right to pride and America a reason for appreciation in the fact that at the time its functions ceased N.Y.A. was continuing to render a 'national war service by supplying 30,000 young people, thoroughly trained in some skill, to essential places in the production program every month...."
  • New Floors and Ceilings in the Minimum Wage: 1939THE LAW ITSELF IS COMPLEX BOTH IN ITS PROVISION AND IN its limitations. Under the Constitution, a federal wage-hour measure can cover only interstate commerce—or as the present law sets its metes and bounds, "industries engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce." For such enterprises, the law fixes progressive standards for minimum wages and maximum hours of work.
  • Old Age Pensions"...We can hardly be happy knowing that throughout this country so many fine citizens who have done all that they could for their young people must end their days divided--for they usually are divided in the poorhouse. Old people love their own things even more than young people do. It means so much to sit in the same old chair you sat in for a great many years, to see the same picture that you always looked at! And that is what an old age security law will do. It will allow the old people to end their days in happiness, and it will take the burden from the younger people who often have all the struggle that they can stand. It will end a bitter situation--bitter for the old people because they hate to be a burden on the young, and bitter for the young because they would like to give gladly but find themselves giving grudgingly and bitterly because it is taking away from what they need for the youth that is coming and is looking to them for support. For that reason I believe that this bill will be a model bill and pass without any opposition this year."
  • Pea-Pickers' Child: 1935The death notice in the county paper was not more than two inches in depth but it had, nevertheless, its modest headline: PEA-PICKERS CHILD DIES. Already there had been three deaths in the pea-pickers' camp: a Mexican had been murdered, stabbed; a child had died of burns; a baby had died of what his young mother referred to as "a awful fever in his little stomach." And now the shallow headlines spoke of Zetilla Kane, the seventh child and only daughter of Joe and Jennie Bell Kane.
  • President Roosevelt's Fireside Chat, June 28, 1934And, finally, the third principle is to use the agencies of government to assist in the establishment of means to provide sound and adequate protection against the vicissitudes of modern life -- in other words, social insurance. Later in the year I hope to talk with you more fully about these plans. A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it "Fascism", sometimes "Communism", sometimes "Regimentation", sometimes "Socialism". But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.
  • Public Works AdministrationThe PWA issued a report in 1939, titled “America Builds,” arguing that the PWA had in fact stimulated the economy. By then it had built thousands of projects, spending billions of dollars on materials and wages. The report estimates that PWA projects used more than one billion man-hours – 1,714,797,910, to be exact. The report said that wages paid on those projects were plowed back into the economy many times over:
  • Roosevelt, EleanorDespite her initial intent to focus on her social activities as First Lady, political issues soon became a central part of the weekly briefings. When some women reporters assigned to ER tried to caution her to speak off the record, she responded that she knew some of her statements would "cause unfavorable comment in some quarters . . . but I am making these statements on purpose to arouse controversy and thereby get the topics talked about."
  • Social Security: The Roosevelt AdministrationPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt's philosophy was: that Government has a positive responsibility for the general welfare. Not that Government itself must do everything, but that everything practicable must be done. A critical question for F.D.R. was whether a middle way was possible-- a mixed system which might give the State more power than conservatives would like, enough power indeed to assure economic and social security, but still not so much as to create dictatorship.
  • Southern Farm Tenancy: 1936When an Alabama town erected a monument "in profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity" a moral was pointed which this author drives home with recent researches in the South. Cotton still enslaves 8 million people; emancipation can come only by diversified farming, a long range program for which is here given
  • Success Stories—Work Relief StyleIN DECEMBER 1932, A DISCONSOLATE YOUNG MAN, TWO OR three years out of college, sat on a park bench and watched his big toe come through his best shoe, while he tried to screw up courage to apply for relief. Two years later he was the executive head of an insurance enterprise handling millions of dollars annually, working in close conjunction with important medical and educational institutions. He, himself, has won an international reputation in his special field. His name would be known to many Survey Graphic readers.
  • Success Stories—Work Relief Style: 1939IN DECEMBER 1932, A DISCONSOLATE YOUNG MAN, TWO OR three years out of college, sat on a park bench and watched his big toe come through his best shoe, while he tried to screw up courage to apply for relief. Two years later he was the executive head of an insurance enterprise handling millions of dollars annually, working in close conjunction with important medical and educational institutions.
  • The Negro and Relief - Part IThis practice of the displacement of Negro labor by white labor began even before the depression. The Negro felt its effect as early as 1927. From the very beginning it has been stimulated by outside forces. For instance, an organization called the Blue Shirts was set up in Jacksonville, Florida, about 1926 for the express purpose of replacing Negroes in employment with white men. An organization called the Black Shirts was formed at Atlanta, Georgia, late in 1927 for the same purpose. The Black Shirts, whose regalia consisted chiefly of black shirts and black neckties, published a daily newspaper. They frequently held night parades in which were carried such signs as "Employ white man and let 'Niggers' go"; "Thousands of white families are starving to death-what is the reason?"; and "Send 'Niggers' back to the farms."
  • The Negro and Relief: Part IIAbout the only source to which the Negro can look for real aid today is the United States government. Experience has shown that local authorities cannot be trusted to administer equably government funds in many sections of the country so far as Negroes are concerned. I am satisfied that the national administration is eminently fair and wants to reach out and see the benefits of its recovery program extended to every citizen, but this ideal is neutralized in many local communities. On the other hand, one does not need to argue for complete centralized control by the federal government, but rather for a degree of protection for a group which experience has proved suffers at the hands of local administrators.
  • The New Deal and the NegroIf the 2,500,000 Negroes in the North and the 9,500,000 in the South earned more they would buy more. The masses of Negroes have never purchased enough food, clothing, furniture, transportation, hospitalization, and the like. Twelve million people would greatly expand production if they were employed and paid according to their economic value rather than their social status.
  • The New Deal: Part IBy 1932, one of the darkest years of the Great Depression, at least one-quarter of the American workforce was unemployed. President Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and took office in 1933. The new President acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy, provide jobs and some form of relief to those who were suffering. Over the next eight years, the Roosevelt Administration initiated a series of projects and programs, known collectively as the New Deal, which aimed to restore some measure of dignity and prosperity to millions of Americans who were unable to find work and earn wages necessary to support and protect their families. Below are brief descriptions of some the major legislative accomplishments and the programs they created.
  • The New Deal: Part IIThe public’s acceptance of New Deal programs and services initiated by President Roosevelt in his first term was to a large extent a result of the pain and fear caused by the Great Depression. How bad the conditions were is worth remembering, since this is a means of gauging the enormous pressure for significant changes in government policy. One of the worst thing about the 1929 depression was its length of time. Men who had been sturdy and self-respecting workers can take unemployment without flinching for a few weeks, a few months, even if they have to see their families suffer; but it is quite different after a year, two years, three years. Among the miserable creatures curled up on park benches, selling apples on the street corner or standing in dreary lines before soup kitchens in 1932 were white men who had been jobless since the end of 1929. This traumatic experience marked millions of people for the rest of their lives, and made them security conscious.
  • Triborough Bridge Dedication - 1936On October 25, 1929, Mayor Jimmy Walker broke ground on the Triborough Bridge. This date later proved significant, as it was just one day after the "Black Thursday" that helped trigger the Great Depression. The initial $5.4 million allocated by New York City for construction of the new bridge - most of which went to condemnation awards and counsel fees - had already been spent before the Ward's Island piers had been built....With its coffers depleted by the ensuing Depression, the city abandoned work on the bridge early in 1930. In 1933, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Moses as the chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority. President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted the new authority a $37 million loan, making the bridge the first project in New York City to earn approval from the new Federal-level Public Works Administration (PWA). Seeking a clear break from the Tammany Hall corruption of the past, LaGuardia said the following to the press: "We are going to build a bridge instead of patronage. We are going to pile up stone and steel instead of expenses. We are going to build a bridge of steel, and spell steel "s-t-e-e-l" instead of "s-t-e-a-l." The people of the City of New York are going to pay for that bridge, and they are going to pay for it in tolls after its completion."
  • What Ten Million Women Want"...My fourth point is the woman's desire to see government lighten her burdens. The first of these burdens is the taxes. On the whole when women see that taxes which they pay bring direct returns in benefits to the community, I do not think that they are averse to paying them, but I do think that our ten million women want much more careful accounting for how their taxes are expended in the local, state or national government. They want to see the actual good which comes to them from these expenditures. They feel very strongly that governments should not add to their burdens but should lighten them. They are gradually coming to grasp the relation of legislation to the lightening of these burdens, for instance, in such questions as the regulation of public utilities and the development of the water power of our nation. They realize now that cheaper electricity means less work in the home, more time to give to their children, more time for recreation and greater educational opportunities....
  • Will the Code of Fair Competition Abolish Child Labor?One of the primary purposes of the National Industrial Recovery Act is to increase employment opportunities. For this reason, if for no other, a 16-year-age minimum should be incorporated in every code. All of the important child-labor industries that have definitely submitted codes have done so, and President Roosevelt's blanket code, which is operative only until December 31 and which depends upon voluntary acceptance, specifies a 16-year age minimum except for non-manufacturing industries where children 14 to 16 years may work for 3 hours a day.
  • Will the Codes Abolish Child Labor?Determined efforts to regulate or eliminate child labor have been a feature of social reform in the United States since 1900. The leaders in this effort were the National Child Labor Committee, organized in 1904, and the many state child labor committees. These organizations, gradualist in philosophy and thus prepared to accept what was achievable even if not theoretically sufficient, employed flexible tactics and were able to withstand the frustration of defeats and slow progress. The committees pioneered the techniques of mass political action, including investigations by experts, the widespread use of photography to dramatize the poor conditions of children at work, pamphlets, leaflets, and mass mailings to reach the public, and sophisticated lobbying. Despite these activities, success depended heavily on the political climate in the nation as well as developments that reduced the need or desirability of child labor.
  • Work-Relief and Negroes"...optimism is premature, just as was true in the cases of NRA, CWA, and others of the Administration's pet schemes for "priming the industrial pump of America." Certainly the controversy which the Work-Relief Bin is evoking at present writing in Senate committee and corridors indicates that there are grave weaknesses in the plans of President Roosevelt for ending the dole by giving jobs. Outstanding among these weaknesses is the President's insistence that the rate of pay shall be lower than prevailing wage levels. Here he has met the bitter opposition of organized labor, and it seems that he will meet defeat on the issue. There should be no hesitation among the Negroes to back up the position which organized labor takes in this instance. Mr. Roosevelt's plan to pay a lower wage than private industry is nothing less than an attempt to lower the existing wage level throughout all industry. It is a surrender to those interests which claim that "recovery" is held back because the wage structure is too high. It is an ignoral of the plain fact that in the building trades the wages for workers have taken a considerable drop in the past two years while the costs of materials have gone steeply upward...."
  • WPA: The Works Progress AdministrationIn 1943, it was said: "Never before in the history of the human race has a public works program, whose principal object was the mitigation of need due to unemployment, reached the magnitude of the Work Projects Administration (note the name change, which occurred in 1939). This is true, however you measure it--by persons employed, money expended, or volume of results." (Joanna C. Colcord, Director of the Charity Organization Department of the Russell Sage Foundation, in The WPA and Federal Relief Policy, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1943, p. 15)