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To Love the Beautiful: The Story of Texas State Parks

A New Deal for Texas State Parks: Segregation

The Great Depression hit African Americans even harder than whites. Black unemployment was estimated anywhere between 35% and 65%, and again the rate was even higher among youths. The CCC offered great opportunities for young black men, but they were forced to endure the pain and humiliation of segregation.

The first CCC companies were racially mixed, but Southern communities vehemently rejected the idea of white and black youths working together. Several Texas communities led the fight against mixed camps. Attorney General Jimmie Allred intervened directly to shut down the work at Goose Island near Rockport, where a mixed group of CCC men was building camping, birding, and fishing accommodations.

Though racially tolerant himself, Roosevelt and his administration bowed to local custom without a fight and allowed segregation in New Deal programs in Texas and throughout the South. Under the new policy, not only would camps be segregated, but only Texas blacks would be allowed to work on Texas projects, thus ensuring that local African Americans would not mingle with northern blacks with different ideas. A cap on black participation in the CCC in Texas was set at 10% of total enrollment.

Even with the segregation, some towns still didn’t want black CCCers in their communities, even if it meant forfeiting a chance at a CCC project. At Palo Duro, two companies of youths were subjected to a Ku Klux Klan parade.

In perhaps the greatest irony, the state parks themselves were placed under a strict whites-only rule. Even when African Americans were allowed to work on park projects, they and their families were forbidden to come back to enjoy the results.

Jap Lucas to R.O. Whiteaker, March 1936

 

The black CCC camps operated differently from the white ones in several respects, including staffing. White men were hired to do the clerical work, as federal hiring regulations assumed that no educated blacks could be found to do the work.

 

 

Carrie May Ferrell to the State Parks Board, June 1945

 

Even World War II was not enough to change the reality of racial segregation. Here the manager of Stephen F. Austin State Park in East Texas asks for guidance on the "problem" of African Americans wanting to picnic in the park.

 

 

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Page last modified: November 7, 2016