Rethinking the Racial Politics of the New Deal and the War on Poverty

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The racial politics of the New Deal raises many controversial issues. With an eye toward today’s global economic crisis, students will interrogate the political economy of policies from the New Deal to the War on Poverty. This research seminar explores different perspectives on the legacies of specific social, cultural, and economic policies and programs aimed at the relief and elimination of American poverty. In other words, students will examine the GI Bill, Social Security, the AAA and Urban Renewal, and so forth with an eye toward an evaluation of those experiments and their impact. In what ways did grassroots communities and labor movements organize their own wars on poverty? What did the New Deal and the War on Poverty mean for Black America and for White America? And what was the difference? What did the GI Bill and Urban Renewal mean for different classes in America? Is it true that Social Security had segregated origins? What were the intentions of the White House in launching the GI Bill and other antipoverty policies? Is it true that the GI Bill made many ethnic groups into educated, middle-class professionals and homeowners? What was the impact on interracial cultural democracy of a New Deal program like the Works Progress Administration? And what role did the Popular Front play in the New Deal? Since there was a New Deal, why did the United States experience such a widespread postwar urban crisis? How did the United States come to have the “Other America” after the New Deal? Why did some people in the Other America need “Survival Programs” in the midst of the Great Society?