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What Was the Civilian Conservation Corps?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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As part of the New Deal — a series of economic stimulus plans implemented by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt — the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was implemented to accomplish two major goals: to employ the multitude of unemployed Americans in the 1930s and '40s, and to undertake a variety of conservation projects throughout the United States. The program was created to counteract the economic devastation left behind by the Great Depression in the United States.

The Civilian Conservation Corps accepted males aged 18 to 25 years old, though later this age range was expanded slightly. These men generally lived in camps and lived under guidelines mimicking military standards in many ways. They were issued uniforms and were expected to live respectfully with each other under threat of dishonorable discharge, much like the military. The program accepted thousands of men, many of whom were impoverished, homeless, or starving when they joined.

Men from Indian reservations were employed by the program during this time, and the CCC jobs were often the only jobs to be had for men from reservations. African Americans joined as well, and while they were paid the same as whites and received the same housing, food, and other benefits, they were still segregated from whites, as was the practice at the time.

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After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II and the Civilian Conservation Corps was disbanded earlier than originally intended. As men began to get drafted into the military, fewer and fewer were available to work. Further, the federal government funneled more and more funding toward the war effort rather than to domestic programs, and eventually funding for it stopped altogether.

The CCC was instrumental in turning the economy around after the Great Depression. It employed thousands of unemployed men and gave a young generation a sense of purpose, as well as a means to feed their families. As part of the New Deal, it was viewed very favorably by the majority of Americans, though it was never made a permanent program. Offshoots of the program exist today; for example, Americorps, which was implemented during the Clinton Administration, is modeled after the CCC. Further, there are a number of state agencies that mirror the program's goals and tasks, including environmental and fire control projects.

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