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The New Deal Teacher Information Sheet

Here is information on the 1930s and the New Deal, which will be helpful when teaching the A New Deal for the Arts lesson.
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The New Deal began with Roosevelt’s election in 1933 and ran through the rest of the decade, ending at the same time as the economic depression in about 1939. The comprehensive, large-scale program was a response to the Great Depression and was designed both to get people back to work and to provide services to the country that would otherwise have gone by the wayside during an economically dire period. Following a decade of financial prosperity, a worldwide economic dip began in 1929 and was greatly exacerbated by the stock market crash of 1929. After the crash, nearly half of American banks closed and about 25% of the workforce was unemployed. (By comparison, the unemployment rate for the United States in 1999 was 4.2%, and about 10% in 2009.)

Programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration provided temporary employment at such work as tree planting, upkeep of state and national forests, and arts projects (e.g., murals, theater, informational books about states). Other agencies created federal policy and regulation, such as the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), which protected investors from fraudulent stock market practices, and the National Recovery Administration, which created and implemented codes regarding labor practices. Several New Deal offices employed artists, including photographers. As part of their New Deal employment Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, to name a few of the photographers, took pictures that have become icons of the American experience and an enduring record of life during one of our country’s most trying times.

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