It was one of the most transformative attempts at economic reform in our country's history: In response to the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched a series of programs under the New Deal banner that were aimed at jump starting the United States' faltering economy.
Critics called some of those programs ineffective, duplicative and occasionally even illegal.
Yet the New Deal undeniably changed the course of U.S. history - and Tennessee's history in particular. A free exhibit now on display in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives provides an overview of the New Deal as well as details about some of the programs that had the greatest impact on the Volunteer State.
For example, the New Deal led to the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built a network of hydroelectric dams throughout the region that provided electricity to rural communities across Tennessee, but also displaced about 82,000 people from their homes. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the state's park system and other programs such as the Civil Works Administration, Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration built infrastructure such as housing, roads, bridges, airports, hospitals and schools around the state.
Material for the exhibit came from the Tennessee State Library and Archives' collections of maps, newspapers, photographs, letters and other documents. These items are available to people who wish to learn more about the New Deal or other topics of historical interest.
Included in the exhibit is an interactive kiosk where visitors can listen to recordings of first person accounts from people who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The exhibit, which will remain on display at least through the end of the year, is open to the public during the Tennessee State Library and Archives' normal operating hours, which are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.