Welcome to the New Deal Online Exhibit

If you have viewed Birmingham from atop Vulcan, cheered for the Hueytown Golden Gophers at the Gilmore-Vines stadium, or admired East Lake Library's mural, then you have experienced one of the legacies of  President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) lasted for eight years, employed 8.5 million men and women, and gave the country a fresh spirit. Its workers laid roads, built bridges, planned parks, sewed toys, painted murals, and served hot school lunches. All aspects of life in this country were touched by New Deal projects.

It was controversial. Hated by conservatives who thought it went too far and liberals who thought it did not go far enough. Despite its critics, the WPA accomplished much and some of these are still with us today.

For more information about the WPA and other alphabet soup agencies, go to the Links page. Here you will find books, articles, and websites. Also, look at the Birmingham Historical Society's Newsletter (November 2009) for more details about the Great Depression in Jefferson County.

If you have a story to share or a comment to make, go to our blog post or to our Flickr site.

New Deal in Jefferson County

WPA work ended in Jefferson County, Alabama on March 31, 1943. At one time as many as 9,000 people were employed by it in Jefferson County. (The Birmingham News, 4-3-1943, p. 4.)  

Some of the accomplishments were:

  • 2566 housing units built
  • 81 miles of streets paved
  • 525 bridges and culverts constructed
  • 3742 dry toilets and septic tanks eliminated

(The Birmingham News, 4-18-1943, p. 14-A )

Map of New Deal Projects

Map of New Deal Projects in Jefferson County, Alabama

About this Exhibit

This online exhibit was created by the Birmingham Public Library  to accompany the Birmingham Historical Society's photo exhibit Digging Out of the Great Depression-Federal Programs at Work. The exhibition explores how Birmingham benefited from Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The 80-year-old photographs will reveal conditions in Birmingham’s industrial communities as photographed by federal photographers Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein; park and forest projects documented by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) photographers; road, bridge, and school improvements; and new communities and housing projects documented by federal photographers. Brian Rushing and student photographers at Birmingham Southern College have provided current photographs of New Deal construction that remain in our local and state parks for comparison.

The photo exhibit opened November 1, 2009 and ran through December 31, 2009 in the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery.

The photo exhibition is sponsored by the Birmingham Historical Society and the Birmingham Public Library with the financial support of the Alabama Humanities Foundation a State Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities  and the Daniel Foundation of Alabama.  Exhibition curators are Robert Pasquill Jr., Brian Rushing, Katherine Tipton, and Marjorie White.

Thanks to Renee Blalock, Director, Birmingham Public Library, and Library staff including Jim Baggett, Kelsey Bates, Frank Golden, Gigi Gowdy, Sandi Lee, Ben Petersen, Yolanda Valentin, and Linda Wilson. Special thanks to Melinda Shelton, Don Veasey, and Elizabeth Swift for the creation of this online exhibit.