Robert Clifton Weaver: “The New Deal and the Negro: A Look at the Facts”

(1935)

Robert Clifton Weaver’s article “The New Deal and the Negro: A Look at the Facts” is a spirited defense of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs in the face of mounting criticism from the African American community. Published in the July 1935 issue of Opportunity Journal, the oldest official magazine of the National Urban League, Weaver’s essay acknowledged problems of discrimination in some of the Great Depression–era relief efforts, yet argued that these efforts had, in fact, greatly alleviated the economic woes facing the black community.

As a member of the Roosevelt administration, Weaver sought to improve the status of African Americans through government programs rather than by more radical means. Not everyone in the black community agreed, however; by 1935 the deepening problems of unemployment, racial tensions evidenced by a riot in Harlem in March, and growing rural poverty in the South led many black leaders to conclude that the U.S. government...

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African Americans living in the slums of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, during the era of the New Deal (Library of Congress)

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