How will Chicago artists make it through the pandemic? 85 years ago the Feds had an answer. Could it work again?

JUL 15, 2020  11:13 AM

How essential is an artist?

Art, you’ve noticed, has been idle.

The artist, in pandemic Chicago, has been stripped of stages, classrooms, materials. Many, who were already working two or three jobs for supplemental income, were stripped of second and third jobs. Some, seeing little light at the end of the COVID tunnel, have probably given up already.

Even a starving artist can last only so long.

And yet, remarkable as it may be seem in 2020, there was a moment, about a decade long, when this country and its White House, eager to get Americans to work, considered its artists essential.

You live everyday with that legacy.

Consider the South Side Community Art Center, an 80-year old institution in a 130-year old Classical Revival house. It rests in an unassuming lot on South Michigan Avenue. It is tall and austere, warm and a bit removed from its Bronzeville neighborhood, set off by stretches of green. And it is different. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote her first book of poetry here, and Gordon Parks used the darkroom in its basement. When Nat King Cole came to town, he played its piano.

World War II

By Barbara F. Dyer | Jul 16, 2020

According to the dictionary I have, a relic is something that has survived a passage of time; something cherished for its age; anything old and left over. I was looking for a new title, as I am tired of “senior citizen.” For some reason, a “relic” does not sound like a title replacement I was looking for.

However, I remember World War II on the home front in Camden. I shall never forget the effect it had on all living here. My friends, relatives and neighbors were all leaving for the service. Most did not want to wait to be drafted because that meant going into the Army and probably combat ground fighting. They all seemed to prefer the Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard. Seeing the young men leave, not knowing if or when they would return home was the difficult part.

We were not used to rationing, but that was easy. You were to go to a central meeting place and apply for ration stamps and coins. Those booklets were precious, as so many things were rationed. One family was allowed one pound of butter a week, if, when you stood in line at the grocery store, they still had a pound left that day. You were very fortunate if you could get a pound of hamburger, when you got to the front of the line. I do remember being very disappointed because I was just old enough to wear silk stockings and they were unavailable to buy, as the silk was going into parachutes. You could buy those awful looking cotton (?) ones that I did not want. One day Eleanor Roosevelt came into our shipyard office, because she was going to christen a barge that day that had been built in the yard. She had on those awful looking stockings, so my whole attitude changed. If the First Lady wore them, then I guess I could, and did until the war was over.

We had received a contract for four barges. Why? Because President Franklin D. Roosevelt wondered how New England families…


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African-Americans in the New Deal

Mary McLeod Bethune in front of the Capitol.

Mary McLeod Bethune in front of the Capitol.Credit…Hulton Archive/Getty Images



The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt
By Jill Watts

There’s long been a standard story of the civil rights movement. It starts on a December evening in 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. With that single act of defiance, the story says, Parks set off a movement that sped across the South of the 1950s and 1960s, through Little Rock and Greensboro, Anniston and Ole Miss, Birmingham and Selma, and brought Jim Crow tumbling down. Then, in the bitter spring of 1968, the movement went to Memphis. There it died, on a motel balcony awash in its martyr’s blood.

It’s a profoundly powerful story, in large part because it’s a sacred one, built on a fundamental faith in sacrifice and suffering as the route to redemption. And for years historians have been pushing against it. They’ve stretched the movement’s chronology, extended its geography, recovered all-but-forgotten events and given its overlooked activists their due, all in an effort to make its history deeper, richer and more troubling than the standard story lets it be.

“The Black Cabinet,” by Jill Watts, the author of books on Hattie McDaniel and Father Divine, seems to take that revisionist project in a less than promising direction. In the early days of the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt named…

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Youth Crises Past and Present: Learning from the New Deal and Eleanor Roosevelt


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to mind the Great Depression because of its economic impact—more than 30 people million filed jobless claims between mid-March and this week. 


Less appreciated are the parallels on how America’s youth were and are being affected. 


The Great Depression wrought a youth crisis of unprecedented proportions—a crisis that threatens to resurface 90 years later.


Fortunately, our 20th-century responses offer guidance, from both President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, on how to diminish the damage of the coronavirus.


In the 1930s, children and teens were among the most economically, educationally, and psychologically vulnerable to the ravages of the Depression. The Relief Census of 1933 revealed that…

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The President vs. The Epidemic: FDR’s Polio Crusade

Dave Welky is Professor of History at the University of Central Arkansas.



No president can end an epidemic single handedly, but they can inspire a popular movement that eradicates a disease. Such was the case with Franklin Roosevelt and polio.


Seventy-five years ago, on April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at the “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia. His administration’s achievements, such as Social Security and unemployment relief, are woven into the fabric of American government. Pundits still measure new presidents against FDR’s First Hundred Days, and present-day politicians slap the “New Deal” label on ambitious agendas. Donald Trump, like FDR a wealthy New Yorker presiding over turbulent economic times, has recently cast himself as a “wartime president” in his predecessor’s mold.


Although FDR’s continuing relevance is undeniable, one of his greatest achievements has faded into relative obscurity even though Americans are reminded of it whenever they sift through their pocket change. The faces gracing common American coins are a parade of Great White Men – Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson – with no obvious rationale for appearing on one denomination or another. It would be as apropos for Lincoln to grace the quarter as the penny.


But examine the smallest and thinnest coin, the dime. More specifically, the Roosevelt dime, first minted in 1946. FDR’s stolid look, with a hint of Cheshire-cat grin, conceals a hidden logic. While president, FDR was a driving force behind the March of Dimes, the charity that financed Dr. Jonas Salk’s creation of a polio vaccine. Because of this medical wonder, along with its successors, the United States has not spawned a polio case for more than forty years. This remarkable chain of events makes FDR responsible for saving thousands of lives and saving even more people from paralysis.


FDR contracted polio in 1921, the year following…


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Coronavirus: Amid crisis, challenges faced by FDR resonate on 75th anniversary of death

By: Paul M. Sparrow, For the Poughkeepsie JournalPublished 6:00 a.m. ET April 9, 2020 | Updated 11:24 a.m. ET April 9, 2020

Editor’s note: Paul M. Sparrow is the director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. He wrote this article for the Journal in recognition of the anniversary of Roosevelt’s death on April 12.

As America and the world confront the deadly COVID 19 pandemic, we should all take a moment to remember the inspirational legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the 75th anniversary of his death.

The society we live in today is based on his vision of global cooperation and economic equality — Social Security, minimum wage, a 40-hour work week, child labor laws, the World Bank, NATO and the United Nations are all just a small part of the Roosevelt legacy. But it is his inspiring leadership in the face of global catastrophe, and his ability to speak hard truth and instill confidence in the future that are most relevant today.

Paul Sparrow, Director of the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park on May 31.

Paul Sparrow, Director of the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park on May 31. (Photo: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal)

During his 12 years as president FDR confronted first the Great Depression and then the rise of fascism and totalitarianism. Yet he never wavered in his belief that the American people could overcome any challenge.


It was April 12, 1945. President Roosevelt was recovering at the polio rehabilitation center he created in Warm Springs, Georgia, on that early spring day. His exhausting travel to the military conference in Yalta with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill had taken a toll on his already poor health.

World War II was nearing its end in Europe and FDR was focusing on…


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