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The TVA and the Race Problem

When the civil service examinations were first given by the TVA in the twelve counties round about Norris, only 1.9 per cent of those who qualified for jobs were Negroes. In these same twelve counties Negroes comprise exactly 7.1 per cent of the total population. Thus it looked as though colored labor was to suffer. TVA authorities insisted that they were helpless to rectify matters since they were compelled to choose their employees from among the people who had qualified by examination. Negro leaders claimed, however, that the reason so small a proportion of their population had qualified was that they had either not even been told of the examinations or else had been given to understand by the native whites that there was no need for them to apply since the whole project was for the advantage of the white man. There were some facts which lent credibility to this charge. For example, TVA authorities did not, and still do not, plan to use any Negro labor on the building of the Norris Dam itself…. Continue Reading »

The Tennessee Valley Authority: Electricity for All

TVA was one of the most ambitious projects of the New Deal, encompassing many of FDR’s own interests in conservation, public utility regulation, regional planning, agricultural development, and the social and economic improvement of the “Forgotten Americans.”Continue Reading »

Letters from the Field: Introduction

We spent the morning in conference, took a quick look at the transient setup–thousands came here looking for work, you see, and present quite a problem–and spent the afternoon looking over Muscle Shoals–Wilson dam and power house, Wheeler dam, the houses they are building there for the engineers and their families, the construction camp, and so on. It’s all on such a huge scale! But darned interesting. Always in the background, though, is this dreadful relief business– dull, hopeless, deadening. God–when are we going to get out of it? As nearly as I can figure it out, most of the relief families in Tennessee are rural, living on sub-marginal or marginal land. What are we going to do with them? And, so low are their standards of living, that, once on relief, low as it is, they want to stay there the rest of their lives. Gosh! TVA is now employing some 9,500 people. But it doesn’t even make a dent! . . .Continue Reading »

Letters from the Field: June 11, 1934

On this trip I’ve tried not to be too preoccupied with relief. I’ve tried to find out what the people as a whole are thinking about–people who are at work. I carry away the impression that all over the area, from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Tupelo, Mississippi, and on up to Memphis and Nashville, people are in a pretty contented, optimistic frame of mind. They just aren’t thinking about the Depression any more. They feel that we are on our way out and toward any problems that have to be solved before we get out their attitude seems to be, “Let Roosevelt do it.”Continue Reading »

Letters from the Field: June 6, 1934

Nearly 10,000 men–about 9,500–are at work in the Valley now, at Norris and Wheeler dams, on various clearing and building projects all over the area. Thousands of them are residents of the Valley, working five and a half hours a day, five days a week, for a really LIVING wage. Houses are going up for them to live in–better houses than they have ever had in their lives before. And in their leisure time they are studying–farming, trades, the art of living, preparing themselves for the fuller lives they are to lead in that Promised Land. You are probably saying, “Oh, come down to earth!” But that’s the way the Tennessee Valley affects one these days.Continue Reading »

Harlan: Working under the Gun

Article written by John Dos Passos, The New Republic (1931). “Harlan County in eastern Kentucky, which has been brought out into the spotlight this summer by the violence with which the local Coal Operators’ Association has carried on this attack, is, as far as I can find out, a pretty good medium exhibit of the entire industry: living conditions are better than in Alabama and perhaps a little worse than in the Pittsburgh district.”Continue Reading »

The Challenge of the Depression

Written by Julia Wright Merrill, Executive Assistant, Library Extension Board. “The work of the library, unlike that of many business organizations, grows rather than diminishes in times of depression. Do not trustees have a responsibility for wise spending of the funds available and for an effort to secure an adequate appropriation for the coming year?”Continue Reading »

School for Bums (1931)

If you want to know how to make a bum out of a workingman who has had trade, home, security and ambition taken from him, talk to any of the young fellows on the breadline who have been in town long enough to have become experienced in misery. Say a man in this town goes to the Municipal Lodging House for his first night. Until lately, he would have been routed out at five in the morning. Now he can stay until six. He is given breakfast, then he must leave, blizzard or rain. He can go next to a Salvation Army shelter for a handout, and get down to the City Free Employment Bureau before it opens. Or he can find shelter in subways and mark the Want Ads in a morning paper.Continue Reading »

WPA Travelling Libraries

The depression came and county libraries were sorely stricken financially. Rescuing funds from the Federal government through relief agencies came in the nick of time. Numerous employees were being furloughed, others were having their salaries cut for the third or fourth time, book repair and book purchases had ceased, many buildings were sadly in need of repair and service was cut to the bone in the summer of 1933.Continue Reading »

Mobilize for Total Nutrition! (1941)

Very many families are unable to secure enough “protective foods.” Milk, meat, eggs, fresh vegetables, and fruits are relatively expensive. Whole wheat bread and other whole grain cereals are perishable—a factor which adds to the cost of their distribution. The farmer in most cases can keep a cow and have a garden and an orchard; but on some poor lands, this is impossible. The city dweller is always dependent on the market for the variety of foods available to him and the amounts which his dollar will purchase. Families with incomes below a certain level must have assistance in tangible form if they are to secure the foods which provide an adequate diet. Assistance may take the form of a money dole, or it may involve the direct distribution of food. Continue Reading »

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