Digging Out of the Great Depression

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Digging Out of the Great Depression: Federal Programs at Work In and Around Birmingham


The Birmingham Historical Society captures in a new book and exhibit seldom-seen murals that tell the story of an era, the history of our region, and the mood of a nation in hardship.

Depression-era murals survive and thrive in both book and exhibit form thanks to the Birmingham Historical Society’s newest endeavor: identifying, assembling, presenting, and chronicling artworks which were created and appeared in the Birmingham area. “We just kept looking,” explains Marjorie White, BHS. “We found the murals still intact in some structures, never having been moved in all these years. We found collections tucked in attics, archives, and online. It has been a fascinating scavenger hunt to find this incredible art, created by artists between 1929 and 1939.”

The book, Digging Out of the Great Depression: Federal Programs at Work In and Around Birmingham, is the ultimate picture book, 144 pages with 250 seldom-seen images of our region’s programs in the arts, agriculture, beautification, archaeology, school and infrastructure improvement, health, reforestation, theater, and more. See our ancestors at work improving our community and keeping morale and productivity alive during one of our nation’s most challenging times. 

  • Examples: “Roadside Stand,” a photograph by Walker Evans, famous for his Depression moods; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visiting Birmingham’s archeological research lab; stone structures in area parks, road and infrastructure improvements and beautification; historical murals about the founding of America; and a series of 10 detailed and colorful murals depicting Alabama agriculture from its origins to the arrival of federal programs in the 1930s, as well as other New Deal murals proclaiming aspirations for better lives.

Historical Research, Publishing, and Education