Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

An Environmental History of the New Deal in Mississippi and Florida

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

Charles R. Wilson

Second Advisor

Robbie Ethridge

Third Advisor

Ted Ownby

Abstract

Keywords: New Deal, Environmental History, United States South, Mississippi, Florida, Gulf Coast, TVA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, landscape, lumber industry, CCC, WPA, state parks. The 1930s represented a time of distinct and encompassing change in the United States South. In assessing the impact of New Deal agencies and public works, this dissertation examines three distinct southern areas-northeast Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the Florida Panhandle-highlighting the dynamic and fluid character of federal projects and their impact on landscapes human and natural. In the hilly Tennessee River valley of northeast Mississippi, the federally-funded incorporation of the Tennessee Valley Authority led to an immediate transformation of landscape and the opening of novel possibilities within a newly-anointed “region” for the area's residents. Public works projects on the Mississippi Gulf Coast likewise reoriented the perspective of place by improving transportation networks and reinvigorating locally (and by the 1930s, globally) significant industries like lumber and seafood products. Federal aid in the fifteen western Florida Panhandle counties created a visibly new world for residents, as well. The construction of new roads and towns out of previously raw coastal timberlands led to a transformation of place and the emergence of not only new commercial and recreational spaces, but the development of a military-industrial complex that remains in place today. In addition to canvassing secondary historical works, primary sources utilized for this project include a wide range of regional newspapers and journals from Mississippi and Florida, federal and state agency reports, promotional material and publications, paper collections of New Deal officials, as well as oral histories and quantitative use of census data. Utilizing these previously neglected sources to demonstrate the malleability of post-Depression public works, this dissertation provides a nuanced historical understanding of the New Deal in the South.

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