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Streaming Media

Abstract

With the approach of Indiana’s bicentennial, Hoosiers have started to reflect on their state’s rich history. One of the most popular New Deal relief agencies, central to the development of Indiana state parks and forests, was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The program employed over three million young men across the country to complete public works projects from 1933 to 1942. In Indiana, enrollees in 57 camps fought fires, created hiking trails, planted trees, and constructed recreational buildings across the state. CCC Company 517 was one of eight African American companies in Indiana and was stationed in Corydon, South Bend, and Portland between 1933 and 1941. My research examines how Company 517 dealt with racial issues in urban and rural settings, and compares the national and local goals of the CCC in terms of race relations. The men completed recreational public works projects in rural Wyandotte Woods State Park (what is today O’Bannon Woods State Park) and improved the drainage systems in the cities of South Bend and Portland. Racial tensions, sometimes spilling over into violence, peaked when the men of 517 were transferred from the state forest to camps in South Bend and Portland, which were located closer to hostile white communities. To research Company 517, I read through camp newspapers published by 517’s educational program from 1933 to 1941 and utilized scholarly works on the New Deal in Indiana. Many of the veterans of Company 517 attributed their hard work ethic and success later in life to their experience in the CCC.

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Video abstract produced by undergraduate students Nicholas Guerrisi and Michael Luken Dever in a fall 2014 course from Purdue University’s Film and Video Studies program.

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