Resettlement Administration

The Resettlement Administration (RA) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency created May 1, 1935.[1] It relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government. On September 1, 1937, it was succeeded by the Farm Security Administration.

Resettlement Administration

Poster by Bernarda Bryson Shahn
Agency overview
FormedMay 1, 1935 (1935-05-01)
DissolvedSeptember 1, 1937
Superseding agency
Agency executive


The RA was the brainchild of Rexford G. Tugwell, an economics professor at Columbia University who became an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt during the latter's successful campaign for the presidency in 1932 and then held positions in the United States Department of Agriculture. Roosevelt established the RA under Executive Order 7027,[1] as one of the New Deal's "alphabet agencies", and Tugwell became its head.

The divisions of the new organization included Rural Rehabilitation, Rural Resettlement, Land Utilization, and Suburban Resettlement.[2] Roosevelt transferred the Federal Emergency Relief Administration land program to the Resettlement Administration under Executive Order 7028 on May 1, 1935.[3]

However, Tugwell's goal of moving 650,000 people from 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2) of agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land was unpopular among the majority in Congress.[4] This goal seemed socialistic to some and threatened to deprive influential farm owners of their tenant workforce.[4] The RA was thus left with enough resources to relocate only a few thousand people from 9,000,000 acres (36,000 km2) and build several greenbelt cities,[4] which planners admired as models for a cooperative future that never arrived.[4]

Relief camps for migrant workers

Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace (left) with Will W. Alexander, appointed to head the Resettlement Administration (December 22, 1936)

The main focus of the RA was to now build relief camps in California for migratory workers, especially refugees from the drought-struck Dust Bowl of the Southwest.[4] This move was resisted by a large share of Californians, who did not want destitute migrants to settle in their midst.[4] The RA managed to construct 95 camps that gave migrants unaccustomed clean quarters with running water and other amenities,[4] but the 75,000 people who had the benefit of the camps were a small share of those in need and even they could stay only temporarily.[4] Tugwell resigned in 1936, wanting to prevent a red-baiting campaign against him from affecting the agency.[4]

On January 1, 1937,[5] with hopes of making the RA more effective, the Resettlement Administration was transferred to the Department of Agriculture through executive order 7530.[5] In the face of Congressional criticism, in September 1937[5] the Resettlement Administration was folded into a new body, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which operated until 1946.[5]

Communities and greenbelt cities

The RA worked with nearly 200 communities on its projects, notably including:

The Weedpatch Camp (also known as the Arvin Federal Government Camp and the Sunset Labor Camp), now on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1936 south of Bakersfield, California — not by the Resettlement Administration but by the Works Progress Administration. The camp inspired John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Photography, film, and folk song projects

The RA also funded projects recording aspects of its work and context, including:

  • The Photography Project, which documented the rural poverty of the Great Depression and produced thousands of images that are now stored and available at the Library of Congress, was headed up by Roy Stryker.
  • The Film Project, which produced two documentaries directed by Pare Lorentz and scored by Virgil Thomson, The Plow That Broke the Plains and The River;
  • Sidney Robertson Cowell's recordings of folk songs, conducted during the summer of 1937, sponsored by the RA's Special Skills Division, and now stored at the University of Wisconsin.

See also


  1. Roosevelt, Franklin D. (May 1, 1935). "Executive Order No. 7027: The Resettlement Administration Is Established - May 1, 1935". Internet Archive. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service. pp. 143–155.
  2. Sternsher, Bernard (1964). Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal. Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. pp. 262–265. OCLC 466310.
  3. Roosevelt, Franklin D. (May 1, 1935). "Executive Order No. 7028: Transfer of Land Program of F.E.R.A. to the Resettlement Administration - May 1, 1935". Internet Archive. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service. pp. 155–156.
  4. Farm Security Administration
  5. Records of the Farmers Home Administration
  6. Wood, Spencer. "Mileston". Mississippi Encyclopedia. Mississippi Humanities Council. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  • Meriam; Lewis. Relief and Social Security The Brookings Institution. 1946 (analysis and statistical summary of all the New Deal relief programs)
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