African-Americans & CCC
African-Americans and the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps
Activity One: FDR and African-Americans in the CCC
Read the following Introduction to African Americans in the Civilian Conservation Corps and answer the question that follows.
- Based on the very limited information provided in this excerpt, what do you think were the possible positive and negative features of this program for African Americans during the Depression?
Read FDR's 1935 memorandum to CCC Director Robert Fechner and answer the questions that follow.
- What policy is President Roosevelt calling for here and why do you think he is calling for it?
- What, if anything, does this document tell you about conditions faced by black workers in the CCC and the attitude of the President and the federal government towards them?
- What, if anything, does this document tell about the attitude of the President and the federal government towards racial discrimination in the United States?
- How much do you think the policy that was called for in this memo advanced racial equality in America given the fact that racial segregation was still the law in many states?
- What was the political, economic and social status of blacks in the different parts of the U.S. at this time and to what extent does the CCC’s treatment of blacks accept or challenge that status?
- Is FDR's attitude toward blacks in this memo positive or negative? How can you explain his position toward blacks in the CCC?
Activity Two: The Debate on African-Americans in the CCC
For homework: Print out and read the four documents that follow. For each, highlight or underline evidence that helps answer the questions found below.
- CCC Youth Refuses To Fan Flies Off Officer; Is Fired
- Letter from CCC Director Robert Fechner to Thomas Griffith, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- Letter from Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to CCC Director Robert Fechner
- Letter from CCC Director Robert Fechner to Senators Robert Buckley and Vic Donahey
- What problem faced by black CCC workers does the document describe?
- What solutions to this problem does the federal government offer?
- Why do you think the federal government offered the solution that it did?
- What do the problem and the solution tell you about the attitude of the federal government towards black CCC workers?
- What do the problem and the solution tell you about the attitude of the federal government towards racial discrimination?
- When all the documents are taken together, what do they tell you about the New Deal government's attitude toward black CCC workers and racial discrimination in general?
In class: Discuss the four documents from your homework with your classmates as instructed by your teacher. During discussion, pay particular attention to the questions found below.
- To what extent can the federal government as a whole be held responsible for the behavior and attitudes of locally hired government officials?
- How should a federal policy be implemented when federal officials differ in their understanding of that policy?
- Do you think that some blacks employed by the CCC preferred to work in segregated units?
Activity Three: A First Hand Account of African-American Life in the CCC
For homework: Print out and read the document below, "A Negro in the CCC," which is a "first hand" account of black life in a CCC camp published in the NAACP's Crisis magazine in 1935. As you read, highlight or underline evidence that suggests that this man's experience in the CCC was positive. Write a 'P' for positive in the margin next to every reference you think is positive. Also highlight or underline evidence that suggests that this man's experience in the CCC was negative. Write an 'N' for negative in the margin next to every reference you think is negative. After you finish going through the document and making notes as instructed, write a two or three paragraph explanation of why you think the writer "heartily recommends" work in the CCC and why you agree or disagree with his recommendation.
In class: Discuss with your classmates, as instructed by your teacher, the following questions about the text you worked with during your homework exercise.
- What was positive and negative about this man's experience in the CCC?
- What, if anything, does this description of the black CCC experience tell you about the attitude of the federal government towards black CCC workers and racial discrimination?
- How typical do you think this man's experience was and why?
- How reliable a source of information is this account? What is the basis for your judgment?
Activity Four: The CCC Agency's View of African-American Participation
Read the following document and identify 3-4 pieces of evidence that persuade or dissuade you to agree with these two statements:
1. Work in the CCC was a positive experience for young black men.
2. The federal government played a positive role in using the CCC to fight racial discrimination and empower black workers.