TVA and Black Americans: Planning for the Status Quo

Synopsis

During the New Deal and World War II, the Tennessee Valley Authority was economically limited by marginal farmlands and industry-poor cities, and socially defined by an Upper South society segregated by race in education, employment, and social services. TVA and Black Americans examines the treatment of blacks as employees and clients in Franklin Roosevelt's "boldest and most liberal social planning experiment." In her critical study, Nancy Grant contends that TVA planned for a future revitalized valley that included blacks primarily in traditionally subordinate economic and social positions. Throughout her study, Grant details the largely unsuccessful efforts of national and Valley civil rights organizations, the Fair Employment Practices Committee, and progressive TVA employees to change TVA's racial policies. She reveals the harsh reality for blacks of limited job opportunities, unequal distribution of social and educational services, and institutionalized racism within TVA. Tracing the changes in attitudes and procedures from 1933 to 1945, Grant reexamines the history of a Southern government agency that was known for its liberalism and experimentation in social and regional planning and challenges that reputation. Author note: Nancy L. Grant is Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College.

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