In 1933, as Franklin D. Roosevelt took his oath of office as the 32nd President of the United States, his people were hurting. From Texas to Detroit to every state in between, citizens were struggling through a 25% unemployment rate, a series of natural disasters, widespread housing foreclosures and food shortages, a stock market that had tumbled by 90%, and little hope for recovery as the Great Depression took hold. Directed by gifted filmmaker Robert Stone, The Civilian Conservation Corps outlines one of the most daring and consequential of the public programs enacted by Roosevelt during this time, a tenant of the New Deal that continues to resonate in our modern world.
Up until that time, the public did not necessarily look upon the government as an engine for bettering their daily lives. Roosevelt's New Deal restructured the function of the government in an unprecedented manner. As part of this string of new programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was designed to reward meaningful work while improving upon the environmental vitality of the nation. Toiling over a period of six months in labor camps across the country, program participants were paid a daily wage to plant trees, repair gullies and embark on other conversation projects. This was many years before environmentalism became one of the country's chief movements.
Roosevelt looked upon the program as a win-win proposition; these efforts would enhance the value of the country's natural resources while keeping its most vulnerable citizens employed. Nevertheless, a vocal opposition did emerge, and blasted the president for ignoring the interests of business, deficit spending and corporate taxes.
The story of the CCC is vividly captured through a wealth of impressive archived materials and a series of new interviews with the men who signed up for the program up until the time of its demise in 1942. The narrative they weave is one of pride, prosperity and patriotism.
The Civilian Conservation Corps is a beautifully assembled and meticulously rendered slice of American history. But it is by no means a dry history lesson; instead, it makes this long-passed era feel personal and inspirational.