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75th Anniversary of the New Deal

March 4, 2008 marked the 75th Anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration as president, and the start of a remarkable outburst of reform, known as the Hundred Days. From March 9 until June 16, 1933, President Roosevelt presided over an unprecedented outpouring of legislation from Congress. In the midst of the greatest economic calamity the nation had ever faced, the executive and legislative branches joined together to give relief, reform industries, and initiate economic recovery. Designed to provide Americans with a sense of security, this legislation shored up a failing banking system, created extensive work relief programs, implemented public works projects, and addressed the crises then gripping both the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy.  Not all of the programs were successful, but the breadth and content of the measures reflected the feeling that the federal government was a government by and for the people, and thus, that government represented a compact, or deal, between the people and their elected representatives.  In addition to its ideological impact, the New Deal left a lasting physical legacy in the form of buildings, bridges, roads, park trails, art work, and many other tangible objects, as well as a generation of people assisted by New Deal programs.

On the 75th Anniversary of this truly historic moment, it was time to reflect on the history, meaning and heritage of Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University, along with other groups, organizations, and individuals around the country, commemorated the anniversary with a variety of programs in 2008.

For a list of events going on around the country, visit the website of a national coalition organizing New Deal anniversary events,, and the website of the National New Deal Preservation Society:

Center for New Deal Studies and Related 75th Anniversary Events

A History of Public Housing in Chicago website
The Center for New Deal Studies has launched a website for students and teachers participating in the Chicago Metro History Fair.  This resource guide features an extensive essay, suggestions for questions or specific topics that students may choose to explore, help with sources, tips on analyzing photographs, and more!  Visit the page at:

Past 75th Anniversary Events:

September 5-November 1, 2008
Exhibition of Farm Security Administration Photographs, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago, 600 S. Michigan Ave.  Selections from the museum's FSA photographs taken during the Great Depression by Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, and Walker Evans.

October 7, 2008
Remembering FDR: Digital Images of the Joseph M. Jacobs Memorabilia Collection, 2:00 p.m., Murray Green Library, 10th Floor, Auditorium Building. The Center for New Deal Studies and the Murray-Green Library showcased the newly digitized photographs of the collection of over 1300 objects relating to FDR, the New Deal, Great Depression, and World War Two. The event featured presentations on archiving, the new database, and the significance of the artifacts. Roosevelt students also gave dramatic readings of letters written to President Roosevelt by citizens suffering through the Great Depression.

October 9, 2008
Eastern Illinois University in Charleston hosted a one-day conference on the New Deal in Illinois to commemorate the 75th anniversary. Center Director Margaret Rung hosted a teacher workshop on the New Deal, and gave a luncheon address. Professor Emerita of Art History, Susan Weininger, participated in an afternoon session on New Deal art and labor. The Center acted as a co-sponor of the conference.

November 17, 2008
Roosevelt scholar William Leuchtenburg, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History, University of North Carolina gave the 16th Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Lecture. The lecture, titled "The FDR Coalition: 1936-2008," reflected on the legacy of the New Deal, and its implications for current politics.  Co-sponsored by the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, NY, this event also celebrated Roosevelt University Dedication Day.

October/November 2008
The Chicago Humanities Festival, whose theme that year was "Grand Visions," had two events in honor of the New Deal's anniversary. The first was a WPA mural tour of local Chicago public schools. Leading the tour was be Heather Becker, CEO of the Chicago Conservation Co., as well as founder and vice president of the National New Deal Preservation Association-Midwest Chapter. The Center and NNDPA-Midwest chapter proposed the tour. The Festival also welcomed David Kennedy, author of Freedom From Fear:  The American People in Depression and War, who spoke on FDR.

March 2008
FDR@75 exhibit, Michigan Avenue Lobby, Roosevelt University.  A series of banners featuring documents, artifacts, and photographs trace the highlights of President Roosevelt’s 12 years in office, both in terms of domestic and foreign affairs. The exhibit was on loan from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum.

March 6, 2008
Opening Reception for FDR@75 exhibit and Panel Discussion, "Framing the New Deal:  Art & Labor in the Great Depression."
Opening reception, 5:30-6:15, Michigan Ave. Lobby.

Panel, 6:30-8:00, "Framing the New Deal:  Art & Labor in the Great Depression," Room 232, Auditorium Building.  Co-sponsored with the Midwest Chapter, National New Deal Preservation Association

Margaret Rung, Director, Center for New Deal Studies and Associate Professor, History, Roosevelt University

Heather Becker, Chief Executive Officer, The Chicago Conservation Center; co-founder of the Midwest Chapter of the National New Deal Preservation Association, and author of Art for the People:  The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943

Susan Weininger, Professor of Art History, Roosevelt University; President, Midwest Chapter, National New Deal Preservation Association, and contributing author to Chicago Modern, 1893-1945:  Pursuit of the New

James Wolfinger, Assistant Professor of History, DePaul University and author of Philadelphia Divided:  Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love

March 29
Women and Work:  Honoring Women Who Are Leading the Way, 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Kennedy King College: U Building, 740 W. 63rd Street. Attending were pioneers and new leaders in workplace equality, who shared their stories. Pioneers included the Reverend Addie Wyatt, an international vice-president of the United Packinghouse Workers of America, a labor liaison to Dr. King in the 1950s, and a 1975 recipient of one of Time Magazine's women of the year. The day's leaders included Roosevelt University's own Jeri Fleming, a VP of Local 391 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, and winner of the Coalition of Labor Union Women's Florence Criley Award (1999).

April 16.
75th Anniversary of the New Deal Film Festival at Columbia College, Film Row Cinema Theater, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Sponsored by Columbia College. The festival featured various New Deal films, many of which have not been shown in public for many, many years. Throughout the day, experts commented on the films. The day culminated with a viewing of several well-known New Deal documentaries, such as The River, and a panel discussion featuring Tom Nastick, head of public programs at the National Archives & Records Administration, Bruce Kraig, Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University, and others.