Did the painting of murals in US Post office pose controversy during the Great Depression?

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shaddox5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Depression was the worst economic disaster of the 20th century. In an effort to inject money into the economy, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deal. This economic recovery plan created a variety of jobs across the nation. For the most part, the jobs generated much needed income for millions of American workers without any controversy. Occasionally, however, controversy did occur.

The massive building projects of the New Deal included construction of new postal facilities in thousands of cities and towns across the country. Artists were commissioned to paint 12' by 5' murals on the walls of these newly constructed buildings. These murals were to depict day to day life in the area served by the local post office in a traditional Americana setting.

Often, the artists hired to paint these murals came from out of state. This led to distrust among the local population of these outsiders. Sensitivities were particularly high in regard to stereotyping the local population, especially in the rural south. In places like my home state of Arkansas, where residents had long been represented as backwards and illiterate by most of the rest of the nation, the murals were subject to significant criticism. 

No region wants to have less attractive portions of its culture permanently on display as a constant reminder of those shortcomings. As a result, an unintentional controversy did ensue over the painting of murals on U.S. Postal Facilities during the Great Depression.


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