Graduation Year


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Program or Major


Faculty Advisor

Deborah Kisatsky


The definitive objective of the New Deal was the survival of the American people and economy, but did it go a step further to address the social justice goals of the Progressive Era that preceded it? Did it carry on progressive ideals, or did the New Deal morph into something different? Above all, did the New Deal empower disenfranchised groups such as African Americans or did it mainly benefit white working and middle class citizens, perpetuating traditional hierarchies of social and political power in the United States?

To analyze these questions, I will examine the writings of several historians that have assessed, scrutinized, and oftentimes criticized the New Deal to understand their viewpoints related to the New Deal’s progressiveness. This task will necessitate understanding how the Progressive Era affected the New Deal. How was progressivism defined and how much of the spirit and letter of the Progressive age was present in the New Deal?

In order analyze the New Deal’s racial progressiveness specifically, I will look at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a microcosm. The Civilian Conservation Corps is one of the most successful and enduring New Deal programs, so I will use it as a case study to examine how African Americans were treated in order to consider whether and how this program advanced progressive idealism during the 1930s. I find that while the New Deal aimed at improving the public good by increasing equality for all groups and advancing the spirit of the Progressive Era, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) itself fell short of creating full equality for African Americans.