New Deal, New Landscape: The Civilian Conservation Corps and South Carolina's State Parks

New Deal, New Landscape: The Civilian Conservation Corps and South Carolina's State Parks

New Deal, New Landscape: The Civilian Conservation Corps and South Carolina's State Parks

New Deal, New Landscape: The Civilian Conservation Corps and South Carolina's State Parks


Tara Mitchell Mielnik fills a significant gap in the history of the New Deal South by examining the lives of the men of South Carolina's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who from 1933 to 1942 built sixteen state parks, all of which still exist today. Enhanced with revealing interviews with former state CCC members, Mielnik's illustrated account provides a unique exploration into the Great Depression in the Palmetto State and the role that South Carolina's state parks continue to play as architectural legacies of a monumental New Deal program.

In 1933, thousands of unemployed young men and World War I veterans were given the opportunity to work when Emergency Conservation Work (ECW), one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs, came to South Carolina. Renamed the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937, the program was responsible for planting millions of trees in reforestation projects, augmenting firefighting activities, stringing much needed telephone lines for fire prevention throughout the state, and terracing and other soil conservation projects. The most visible legacies of the CCC in South Carolina are many of the state's national forests, recreational areas, and parks.

Prior to the work of the CCC, South Carolina had no state parks, but, from 1933 to 1942, the CCC built sixteen. Mielnik's briskly paced and informative study gives voice to the young men who labored in the South Carolina CCC and honors the legacy of the parks they built and the conservation and public recreation values these sites fostered for modern South Carolina.


On October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed, marking the beginning of a period of American history that came to be known as the Great Depression. Throughout the country people lost their jobs, their savings, and, many believed, their future security. In South Carolina, the economy was depressed even be fore the stock market crash, and the crash only intensified the desperate situation in the state. Cotton prices dropped, banks failed, and city governments throughout the state went bankrupt. In the early 1930s at least seventeen counties in South Carolina had an unemployment rate of over 30 percent.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal came to the state in March 1933. By the end of that summer, over 400,000 South Carolinians, 25 percent of the state’s population, were on relief, managed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). In a program tainted nationwide by favoritism, nepotism, and racism, South Carolina was the only state in which more African Americans received FERA aid than whites. One of FDR’s New Deal relief programs, Emergency Conservation Work (ECW), came to the state in 1933, shortly after FDR had proposed a “civilian Conservation Corps,” along with other relief programs, in March. Although officially known as Emergency Conservation Work, the program retained the popular title Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and officially became the CCC in 1937. The program provided jobs for thousands of unemployed young men and hundreds of veterans. For their work, the men received housing, clothing, food, and payment of about a dollar a day. Of that, their families received between $22 and $25 a month in direct payment.

The CCC camps fell under the direction of the War Department and in many ways resembled army camps. These camps provided a structured environment for many young men who had never known such structure. Enrollees received educational classes at the elementary, high school, and college levels, as well as vocational instruction in typewriting, agriculture, landscaping, mechanics, electricity, and forestry, among other topics. Recreational opportunities for the young men abounded as well. Swimming, cards, and table tennis provided nightly entertainment, and movies were shown frequently. Sports teams in . . .

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