Every Presidential administration has to find ways to convince the public that its policies are what they really should want. And as we all know, new technology will be embraced by politicians at all levels to advance their agendas. So it is no surprise that the administration of Franklin Roosevelt put the new communication technology of sound motion pictures to work to push New Deal programs to counter the depression and to maintain domestic support during the Second World War.
Several years ago in a SPARK course we looked at a variety of government motion pictures, primary combat films produced during the war, designed to sway public opinion is favor of American and British military policy. This new course will concentrate on the Roosevelt Administration’s domestic efforts, first to combat the Depression and introduce major changes in America, then to steer wartime domestic policy.
The series will include renowned classics such as Pare Lorentz’s The Plow That Broke the Plains, as well as lesser know films on Federal housing policy, African-American employment, the “evacuation” of West Coast Japanese-Americans, persuading women to continue in the wartime workforce, and convincing Americans that racism at home (and the armed forces) is no different than the rabble-rousing and racism that enabled the Nazis to seize power in Germany.
In addition to the films, in one class Steve Sitton, Administrator of the Thomas Hart Benton Home & Studio State Historic Site, will show examples of and discuss Benton’s wartime activities with with the Navy producing art designed to support the war effort.
As we review these films we will discuss the implications that the various forms of today’s “propaganda, public information and fake news” are having on our decision making.
Instructor: Alan Perry graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand with degrees in history. He served over 15 years as Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In addition to reaching history he served as an Archivist for the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, the Virgin Islands and Kansas City.