Works Progress Administration (WPA)

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WPA Pine Mountain Valley Project, Farm Food Week.

Harry Hopkins, the director of many of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Recovery programs, knew that by “giv[ing] a man a [handout]… you save his body and destroy his spirit. [But by giving] him a job… you save both body and spirit.” The Works Progress Administration (WPA) gave over 8.5 million people jobs, as well as boosting workers’ self-esteem.

Along with the repair and construction of roads, bridges, public parks, and public buildings, the WPA also paid for federal art, theater, music, theatre, and writing programs. Many criticized the act of federal dollars going towards art programs, but Hopkins defended the decision by saying, “[artists] have got to eat just like other people.” By supporting tens of thousands of artists, over 2,500 murals and 17,000 sculptures were created for public buildings all over the country. The National Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were two organizations created by the WPA that are still around today.

“The Works Progress Administration (WPA),” American Experience. Public Broadcasting System.