Commentary on Occupy Wall Street by Robby Cohen:
Actually, I don't think we disagree on the way change came about in the 30s. Nor do I fault [Occupy Wall Street] on the question of having specific demands, as I think that is up to every progressive to ally with the movement and push for and end to regressive tax polices, real oversight of Wall Street, etc.
On that issue of blacks and the New Deal, there were lots of failures but also some impressive accomplishments.
"Every WPA contract required that the number of African Americans hired be proportional to the population. By the end of 1936 20% of WPA workers were Blacks." (Cheryl Greenberg, To Ask for An Equal Chance: African Americans and the Great Depression, p. 58)
There was a Black presence in key New Deal agencies -- the Kitchen Cabinet that pushed for fair hiring, and though they did not win all or most of the time, they won enough to help give the New Deal a very positive image in the Black community, as did ER, which is why in 36 for the first time Black America abandoned the party of Lincoln for FDR.
Robby Cohen is a professor at NYU and author of Freedom’s Orator, the classic biography of Mario Savio.