The New Deal

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In what ways were African Americans especially affected by the New Deal? What were the strengths and limitations of Roosevelt's policies as they applied to African Americans?

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The New Deal is a collection of 1930s reforms sponsored by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that aimed to address and correct the underlying economic causes of the Great Depression. The New Deal's outlined goals were to provide relief for the poor, stimulate economy recovery, and also promote long-term economic reform. Though his wife, Eleanor, was a vocal civil rights activist, FDR himself did not expressly align himself with civil rights issues for fear of alienating Southern white voters.

That said, many African Americans felt that the era of the New Deal benefitted them in practical ways. During the depression, they were the last hired and first fired. Within the agencies established by the New Deal, African Americans represented a sizable population. For example, African Americans composed about 11% of the Civilian Conservation Corps and 15% of the Works Progress Administration (representing about 350,000 individuals in each institution). Moreover, the Public Works Administration established a quota for the hiring of black laborers. Lastly, the National Youth Administration employed many African Americans as administrators and addressed itself to the conditions of black children.

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