In less than a decade, President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal agencies radically transformed Los Angeles as they did other American cities in a successful, but largely forgotten, effort to extricate the nation from the Great Depression. In addition to building the region's cultural infrastructure of schools, libraries, and museums, the Federal Writers Project left us a vivid freeze frame description of what Southern California was like just before World War II. Author David Kipen discusses the recently republished Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels and geographer Gray Brechin shows the public works that revolutionized the lives of millions 75 years ago.
David Kipen is author of The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History, and translator of Cervantes' The Dialogue of the Dogs. Until January 2010, he was the Literature Director of the National Endowment of the Arts. He also served from 1998 to 2005 as book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. His introductions to the WPA Guides to Los Angeles and San Francisco were recently published. In July of 2010 he opened Libros Schmibros, a lending library/used bookstore in the once majority-Jewish, now majority-Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights -- now in its new home above the Mariachi Plaza Gold Line station.
Dr. Gray Brechin is a visiting scholar at the U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography from which he received his Ph.D. in 1998. He is the founder of the Living New Deal, an effort to inventory and map the legacy of New Deal public works in the United States. He received an M.A. in Art History in 1976 from the U.C. Berkeley Department of Art History in 1976 with a special interest in architecture. He is the author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.