Date of Award
Dr. Mary Niall Mitchell
Dr. Connie Zeanah Atkinson
Dr. Charles Chamberlain
For decades, scholars have debated the significance of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), emphasizing its political, economic, and artistic impact. This historiography is dominated by the accomplishments of white men. In an effort to highlight the long-neglected legions of black women who contributed to WPA projects and navigated the agency’s discriminatory practices, this paper will examine WPA operations in New Orleans where unemployment was the highest in the urban south, black women completed numerous large-scale projects, and white supremacist notions guided relief protocol. By analyzing the New Orleans WPA Photography collection, along with newspapers, government documents, and oral histories, a new perspective of the WPA emerges to illuminate the experiences of marginalized black women workers, illustrate how the legacies of slavery and effects of segregation impact black women’s employment opportunities, and highlight how black women made substantive contributions to public projects in the face of societal constraints.
O'Dwyer, Kathryn A., "‘Posed with the Greatest Care’: Photographic Representations of Black Women Employed by the Work Progress Administration in New Orleans, 1936-1941" (2019). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 2630.