Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The African-American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The African-American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps

Article excerpt

The African-American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps. By Olen Cole Jr. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, c. 1999. Pp. xiv, 114. $49.95, ISBN 0-8130-1660-6.)

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in the first frantic days of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. It was easily the most popular of the New Deal's myriad welfare agencies. The program aimed at the worst aspects of the problem of youth destitution and proposed to get as many unemployed young men as possible out of the cities and into the forests and parks to work on conservation tasks. It was a quintessential emergency measure that had been cobbled together without forward planning, yet the CCC lasted nine years. During this time more than two million young men passed through its ranks, including 200,000 African Americans. This slim volume--only seventy-seven pages of text--explores the experiences of some of these.

The first point to note is that the book does not live up to the claims of its title. This is emphatically not a history of African Americans in the CCC. It is an account of the fourteen camps established in California for African Americans, most of whom came from within the state. It is an extremely narrowly focused study that lacks any comparative perspective. There is only the briefest of mentions of the CCC in the South, although that is where most African American enrollees were stationed. There is also no discussion of those few regions, notably New England, where enrollees were sent to integrated camps. The larger history of African Americans in the corps remains to be

written. …

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