Mapping the Works Progress Administration in New York

The New Deal is often identified as being one of America’s great political undertakings, encompassing a family of administrations and acts intended to help get Americans back to work. This was not the only way that the New Deal was intended to re-build America, though, as the work that the New Deal stipulated was meant to contribute to the long-term improvement of infrastructure and environment as well. For instance, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) was a New Deal project that saw the construction, expansion, and improvement of America’s forests, wildlife refuges, and other natural settings. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created to bring prosperity to its area of operation through such means as production of fertilizer, hydroelectricity, re-direction of waterways, and education of local farmers on modern agricultural methods.

File:FDR in 1933.jpg - Wikipedia
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

One New Deal project that always interested me was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA, which was founded in 1935, was designed to get Americans working towards building various civic centers, roadways, and waterways, or improving upon older ones. These included, but were not limited to, schools, town halls, fire departments, sewers, roads, and bridges. The WPA employed millions of Americans for these ends, and ultimately, thousands of infrastructural projects were finished by the time the WPA was discontinued in 1943. Because much of the infrastructure created by the WPA continues to exist and function to this day, the WPA is one of the most enduring New Deal projects. Included among the buildings created by the WPA is my town’s middle school, which is partly where my interest in the WPA comes from.

e-WV | Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Poster for the Works Progress Administration.

For my digital project, I propose creating an interactive map which shows the locations of New York schools that were created as a result of the WPA. The objective of the project would be to show the enduring legacy of the New Deal, and how it continues to contribute to the general welfare of the United States, particularly for education. Being that the current presidential administration is posturing itself towards sweeping efforts on boosting vaccine production, domestic computer chip production, and financial assistance for small businesses, it would be pertinent to create a project related to the New Deal, and the effort to bounce back from the Great Depression.

One Reply to “Mapping the Works Progress Administration in New York”

  1. Hi Raphael, doing a mapping project around the WPA is a great idea. I think your concept of zeroing in on the impact of schools created by the WPA in New York is a good way to narrow the focus in this space too. If you were to work on this project, I think one of the initial key questions I would have is who your audience is. Along with that, it would be important to think through what aspects of this you would map. For example, you could have the dots on your map related to the relative amount of funding they received. Or, if part of the idea is to illustrate how foundational that funding was, it might make sense to include data about later periods as a way to draw out the comparison of what the effects of the WPA were. In any event, lots of great options here and if you do go with this as your project I would be excited to see how it develops.

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