Leaning on a Legacy: The WPA in Oklahoma

The long awaited book depicting the many aspects of work done by one New Deal agency has been released by the Oklahoma Heritage Association. LEANING on a LEGACY, The WPA in Oklahoma, is the result of many years of archival and on-site research and documentation. The hard back book is a mid-sized book with approximately 200 photos, most of which were taken recently.

Marjorie has interviewed, searched and examined many records in order to tell the story of the hundreds of men, women, and young people who were involved in the Work Projects Administration eight year long program during the 1930s. Most people living today are unaware of the need for and the wide variety of projects undertaken by the “work instead of relief” program designed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even though this book is narrowed to Oklahoma, it reveals the overall picture of the vast program nationwide. Eleven billion dollars was spent (in 1930s money) across the nation to build roads, bridges, culverts, parks, small and large dams, schools, and other buildings.

The arts program under the portion called Federal One produced much art and many murals nationwide. The Federal Arts Program (FAP) is one of several during the 1930s, but it is the best known. Unfortunately, many paintings were lost and murals painted over. A restoration effort is undergoing nationwide. Also under Federal One were music, theatre, and writing projects. The music section saw the development of the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, which is a strong entity in the 21st Century. The Writers Project produced a Guide Book for every state, but more importantly, interviewed hundreds of ex-slaves, pioneers, and Native Americans. That work is referred to as Pioneer Narratives and is usually on microfilm now in local libraries. There are 41 rolls of the Oklahoma narratives.

Oklahoma did receive more WPA built schools than any other state – a total of 825. Schools, stadiums, stadium walls, and many park structures are still visible across the state. The most unusual structures in Oklahoma are in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge, which depict the area in Jerusalem. The rocky terrain has 22 structures built by WPA that are used for an annual Easter Pageant, which has been held every year. The pageant actually began in the 1920s and the buildings were completed in 1936. It is the only totally based Christian themed projects discovered in research.

Colorful end sheets in the book display many varieties of stone and bricks, as well as many samples of the WPA markings on buildings and sidewalks. The dust jacket shows a waterfall in Honor Heights Park in Muskogee, OK, which was part of the WPA project in the park. The book LEANING on a LEGACY, The WPA in Oklahoma, can be ordered by sending your check to Marjorie Barton, 2412 Boston, Muskogee, OK 74401.


The cost, including shipping anywhere in the United States, is $30.00

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Or call (918) 682-4366 or cell (918) 348-4335