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When President Roosevelt formed the National Youth Administration (NYA) in 1935, he declared that it would address “the most pressing and immediate needs” of American young people. Richard A. Reiman explores the various and sometimes conflicting ways in which the NYA defined those needs and attempted to answer them. The NYA was set up to assist the millions of youth during the Depression who were ineligible for the New Deal's own Civilian Conservation Corps. Contrary to popular belief, Reiman argues, New Dealers did not envision the NYA primarily as a “junior WPA,” a trigger for civil rights reform, or a springboard for the careers of liberal administrators. Rather, its designers saw it as a reform agency that would advance and protect democracy by countering totalitarian appeals to young people and by equalizing educational opportunities for rich and poor.
Based on a wide range of sources, including NYA-related documents at the National Archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, The New Deal and American Youth is the first full-length study of this important agency. By showing how the NYA served as an instrument for realizing so many New Deal ambitions, it offers rich insights into not only the NYA but the New Deal as well.