Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tonight in West Virginia: Alaska Far Away debuts in a state with rich New Deal history of its own

One of the points that people take away from watching Alaska Far Away is that the Matanuska Colony was just one of over 100 resettlement communities created around the country by Roosevelt's New Deal. Over and over we hear, "This is amazing! Why weren't we taught about this in school?"

Good question. If the New Deal is taught in schools at all, you may learn about the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Social Security, and maybe the Federal Theatre Project. But the New Deal created many other programs, large and small, to help people whose livelihoods had been destroyed by the Great Depression. For the most part, they were designed to be temporary programs, emergency measures designed to give people a boost so they could succeed on their own. Harry L. Hopkins, head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration that created and administered many of these programs, was once taunted by his critics, who said these programs wouldn't work in the long run. But Harry - who had been a social worker and relief manager in New York, and knew first-hand the devastating effects of poverty - answered his critics by saying, "People don't eat in the long run. They eat every day."

Tonight (5/28) Alaska Far Away will make its debut in West Virginia (8:00 p.m.). West Virginia is home to another famous New Deal community, Arthurdale. Created in 1933 (pre-Matanuska) within a day's drive of Washington, D.C., and under the watchful eye of Eleanor Roosevelt herself, Arthurdale was the country's first New Deal Homestead Community. Arthurdale is now a National Historic District featuring 160 of the 165 original homesteads, and a center where visitors can learn about and celebrate the New Deal communities. If you're interested in New Deal history, be sure to visit during their annual New Deal Festival, which will be held this year on July 13.