The Living New Deal Project, University of California-Berkeley, is an ambitious project with two primary goals: to map and describe every New Deal Project in the United States in one location, easily accessible to people, and to publicize how we are still benefiting today from the government investment in infrastructure from that brief period that comprised the New Deal years. Evidence of those benefits are all over Mississippi, for example, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (later renamed PWA) former New Albany City Hall (now serving as the Police Department) that was designed by Mississippi architect E. L. Malvaney.
The projects in Mississippi alone are too numerous to be described in even one article, let alone a short post, and only a few are yet recorded on the Living New Deal map. Projects under the New Deal were extensive and included bridges, roads, and dams, school buildings and post offices, and improvements in sanitation and water supply.
The Leland school was one of several Mississippi schools constructed under the auspices of the New Deal.
Though not in Mississippi, the Possum Kingdom, Texas masonry bridge was one of the most significant of the WPA road/bridge projects in the nation. The Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge connecting Greenville with Lake Village, Arkansas opened in 1940 and was dismantled in 2011 after construction of the new Mississippi River bridge.
Wright (2010 in The New Deal and the Modernization of the South, Federal History) asserts that the role of the projects on the South’s economic development is missing from most analyses of the success (or failures) of the New Deal. He provides research to illustrate
…the New Deal era constituted a turning point in regional economic development, a watershed if not an instantaneous revolution. (p. 58)
in 1930, Mississippi had 17,950 miles of surfaced rural roads; between 1935-1943, WPA built an additional 15,770 miles (Statistical Abstract of the United States, Bureau of Public Roads, Federal Works Agency Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-1943 (1946) as cited in Wright).
The electric power program generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was also a New Deal project.
…with all its shortcomings, however, the TVA constituted a massive expansion of access to electric power in an impoverished region. (p. 60)
Other areas in which Mississippi benefited were reforestation, soil conservation and erosion control, reduction in infant mortality rates through sanitation and public health infrastructures. It is important to note the Mississippi and the South managed to circumvent many of the incentives and rules of the New Deal and post-World War II benefits to blacks, and in many instances continued to exclude African Americans from participation.
In the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s administration, 15 major pieces of legislation to address the Depression’s effects were developed and passed by Congress (Smith, F. C. in The Tupelo Homesteads: New Deal Agrarian Experimentation. mdah.state.ms.us/pubs/homesteads.pdf). There were five projects in Mississippi including Hattiesburg, Laurel (selected, but never implemented), Meridian, McComb, Tupelo, and Richton. The Tupelo Homesteads were designed by local architect Frank Kincannon. They were assumed by the National Park Service in 1940 as part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, also a New Deal project.
And no, the former Sullivan law office (and currently the Freeland law office) was not a New Deal project. However, Sullivan’s daughter, Ellen Sullivan Woodward,
…who persisted in trailing him to his office and into the courtroom, reciting at home what she learned in court. (Swain, M. H. (1995). Ellen S. Woodward: New Deal Advocate for Women. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 2)
would go on to become the second highest ranked woman in Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration, and involved with the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects in three different New Deal agencies. Pretty impressive for a woman with no formal schooling beyond the age of 15, married and living in Mississippi until widowhood at age 37 propelled her beyond the borders of her home state and into the world of work and advocacy for working women.
Categories: Bridges, Building Types, Greenville, Historic Preservation, Leland, Mississippi Towns, MS Dept. of Archives and History, National Park Service, New Albany, New Deal, Oxford, Schools, Tupelo
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