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African Americans and the Civilian Conservation Corps (1941)

CCC Participant at Barrack's Door
CCC Participant at Barrack’s Door
National Archives and Records Administration


The CCC and Colored Youth.
Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Offices, 1941.
[Edgar Brown]

Editor’s Note: This is a slightly edited copy of a publication produced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941.  The original copy is in the Documents section of the New Deal Network

250,000 — colored youth have served in the corps since President Roosevelt and the Congress initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Regular habits of work, training, discipline, fresh air and three     well  prepared and ample meals a day have combined to improve the health and morale of all enrollees. The gain in weight has ranged from seven to fifteen pounds for each boy.
30,000 — young colored men and war veterans, one tenth of the total CCC enrollment, are actively participating in the Civilian Conservation Corps. They are engaged on work projects throughout the country, and the Virgin Islands.
$700,000 — a month for the past year has been allotted by colored CCC boys to their parents and dependents back home.
90,000 — books have been supplied through the War Department and the Office of Education for colored camp libraries. Current magazines, daily and weekly newspapers are made available in camp recreation halls.
12,000 — colored CCC enrollees in the past five years have completed courses in first-aid through cooperation of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Red Cross
2,000 — colored project assistants’ leaders and assistant leaders are on duty at CCC Camps.
600 — colored cooks are steadily employed in CCC Mess Halls.
900 — classes in Negro history were conducted in the camps during the past five years. National Negro Health exhibits have been shown for five consecutive years in cooperation with the U. S. Health Service.
800 — colored boys have gained business training in the capacity of store clerks and mangers of the Post-Exchanges in CCC camps.
400 — colored typists are assigned to CCC headquarters of commanding officers, camp superintendents and educational advisors.
147 — colored college graduates are serving CCC camps as educational advisers.
1,200 — part-time, experienced teachers are actively engaged in instruction of these colored enrollees at CCC camps.
25 — colored medical reserve officers and chaplains of the U. S. Reserve Corps are on active duty in the nations CCC Camps.
106 — colored CCC camps are located in forests, parks, recreational areas, fish and game reservations, and on drainage and mosquito control projects.
48 —  colored CCC companies are engaged on soil Conservation projects.
2 — colored commending officers with the rank of Captain and Lieutenant, in the U.S. Reserve Corps are on active duty with the CCC; one at Gettysburg National Park, Pennsylvania, and the other at

Fishers landing, New York. Four other line officers are on active duty at these two Camps.

4 — colored engineers and six colored technical foremen have served Pennsylvania camps for more than two years, At Gettysburg, the camp superintendent is a Negro.
1 — colored historian who received his Ph.D degree from Columbia University is included in the camp personnel at Gettysburg.
1 — colored CCC company is at work at Zanesville, Ohio on one of the largest tree nurseries in the U.S.
3 — colored companies have made possible during the past five years the restoration of the battlefields at Yorktown, Virginia in the Colonial National Park.
1 — colored company in Ohio, near the Taylorville Dam carriers on in the renowned Miami Conservation District, a flood control project started after the 1913 Dayton flood.
1 — colored company has been engaged on the unique historic project at Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia.
1 — colored company is located on the TVA site in Tennessee.
11,000 — colored enrollees have been taught to read and write. More than 90 per cent of the colored CCC enrollees regularly attend classes from elementary to college level which are conducted in each camp’s education building which is well equipped and especially constructed for vocational instruction. Howard University, Wilberforce University, Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Florida A. & M. College at Tallahassee, Tennessee A. & I. State College and a number of other Negro collages have granted scholarships and fellowships to CCC enrollees.

The textile and food industries and the railroads have received orders for more than $33,000,000 worth of supplies needed to run colored CCC camps.

         $15,000,000 — has been obligated for clothing worn by colored enrollees, including shirts, underwear, trousers, socks, denim jumpers, shoes, caps, raincoats and overcoats.
$19,000,000 — has been expended for food served colored boys and men at camp during the past 6 1/2 years.
$1,500,000 — has been received by railroads for transportation of colored CCC enrollees to camp and back home again.


The Civilian Conservation Corps was established by President Roosevelt and the Congress on April 5, 1933. On the same day the late Robert Fechner was named Director. James J. McEntee, now Acting Director of the CCC, has been Assistant Director since its inception.

The purpose of Civilian Conservation Corps work is to relieve acute conditions of distress and unemployment in the United States and to provide for the restoration of the countries natural resources along with the advancement of an orderly program of useful public Works.

Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees are selected on a state-quota basis by the Labor Department from unemployed and needy young men. Veterans are selected by the Veterans’ Bureau, and make up ten per cent of the total enrollment.

From the beginning of the Civilian Conservation Corps, colored youths have shared in the program. At the peak strength of the CCC, reached in August 1935, there were 506,000 young men and war veterans enrolled. Of this number, approximately 50,000 were colored.

Mindful of the health of these young men, medical officers from the U. S. Army Reserve Corps hare been assigned to look after their physical well being. Fourteen colored medical officers are now on active duty at CCC camps throughout the country. Each company is provided with a first-aid building, company, hospital, or dispensary with a medical officer in charge. Orderlies are appointed from among the enrollees.

The Office of Education has acted in an advisory capacity to the War Department in working out an educational and recreational program. Each company has an educational adviser, who develops a program suited to the individual needs of each camp. College graduates are appointed to fill these positions. Eleven thousand colored enrollees who were illiterate have been taught to read and write in classes offered by the CCC camps. There are today 147 colored men serving the CCC camps as education advisers. Most of the educational work is carried on at camp. Arrangements are often made, however, for enrollees to take additional school work in public school evening classes in nearby cities. The camp educational programs offer instruction in carpentry, shorthand, tying, forestry, auto mechanics, landscaping and numerous other vocational subjects. While attendance at classes is voluntary, approximately ninety per cent of the colored enrollees attend. Classes in first-aid, safety, morale, guidance, leadership and hygiene have been well attended. While at work, CCC enrollees are given practical instruction on the job by the project superintendent and the technical staff.

Baseball and soft ball diamonds, tennis courts and basket ball courts have been laid out to provide recreational facilities at the camps. Some of the camps have produced championship teams in baseball and other sports. Current movies, health education films, lectures on geography, conservation, history and other topics, and plays are included in the camp educational and entertainment program. Trips to nearby museums and other points of interest are frequently scheduled.

Six colored chaplains of the U.S. Army Reserve Corps direct the religious activities in a number of the colored camps. They are aided by ministers from nearby communities.

Through the experience and training received in the CCC, boys learn how to live together and work together amicably. Experience and training afforded by the CCC has helped many boys to secure employment. The specialized knowledge gained by filling such positions as mess sergeant, company clerk, assistant educational adviser, leaders, project assistants, store clerk manger, foreman and first-aid men has proved valuable to these enrollees in the Civilian Conservation Corps.


Approximately 5,000 different courses in 116 different subjects are being given in Forest service oaks each month. In all camps, including National Park Service camps, probably 11,500 courses in 150 different subjects are being taught.

Source: New Deal Network:  The CCC and Colored Youth. Author: Brown, Edgar. United States Government Printing Offices, 1941.

For further information:

Edgar G. Brown papers, 1936-1981. Amistad Research Center, Tulane University.

Gower, C. W. (1976). The Struggle of Blacks for Leadership Positions in the Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933-1942. The Journal of Negro History, 61(2), 123–135.

Pamphlet: The Civilian Conservation Corps and Colored Youth (1940). Broward County Library Digital Archives.


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