Kenneth J. Bindas received his PhD from the University of Toledo in 1988 and has spent the last 21 years teaching, reading and writing history. His scholarship has focused on the intersection of politics, culture, and society particularly as it manifested during the period of the Great Depression. His books include All Of This Music Belongs to the Nation: the WPA’s The Federal Music Project (1994), Swing, That Modern Sound (2001), Remembering the Great Depression in the Rural South (2005), and has edited America’s Musical Pulse (1991) and The Great Depression and the New Deal (2009). He is currently Professor & Chair of the department of History at Kent State University.
How did ordinary people experience the Great Depression?
Using over 600 oral histories from Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama, Bindas explains how common people viewed their experience of this extraordinary time, from their views of FDR and government agencies, to consumerism and their lack of employment. Bindas concludes by looking at the manner in which they shared their experiences as ‘story’ in order to better convey the depth of the depravity that was their experience.
Popular music in the Great Depression
During the Depression decade two great popular musical forms dominated the American mind – Swing and Country/Western. While seemingly different on the surface, the forces that encouraged their popularity were the same — technology, modernism, and capital. This presentation looks at the rise and development of these two popular styles of music during the era as a way of defining the American experience.
The Federal Music Project and American Music
In order to combat the problem of unemployment during the Great Depression, FDR created the WPA. This program aimed at giving people jobs for which they had skills, so that they would not lose those skills. While it might be easy to understand how this would work for skilled trades or other semi-skilled work, one of the more innovative projects involved the employment of musicians through the WPA. This presentation will look at the creation, structure and meanings of the Federal Music Project and tie it to the profound changes taking place during the era.
Oral history and Memory
Oral history is an excellent way to gain insight into how people experienced an era or felt about a historical event. But how and what they remember and how they relay that information is an interesting story in itself of historical consciousness and memory. This presentation will look at the nature of historical memory and its meaning to society and history.
Civilian Conservation Corp and Cuyahoga Valley National Park
In December 1933 the first unit of the Civilian Conservation Corp entered the Virginia Kendall Reserve situated between Cleveland and Akron (now a part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park) to begin reconstructing the area for people to enjoy the bounty of nature. Their activities, replicated throughout the country during the 1930s, reflects the growing importance of the recreation and the role of the federal government in the maintenance and preservation of our natural resources. This talk will examine the experience in the Reserve as a model for the significance of the CCC to the country then and its legacy today.
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