National Youth Administration (Negro Activities in Kentucky)The National Youth Administration (NYA) was established in 1935 by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. NYA was a division of the Works Progress Administration by way of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act.
The Depression had drastically impeded the education and employment of more than 20 million young people. NYA provided student aid work funds for the part-time employment of persons between the ages of 16 and 25 to help them continue their education and enhance their employability as well as to help them develop constructive leisure activities.
The Division of Negro Affairs, headed by Mary McLeod Bethune, oversaw the participation of Negro youth. Financial support and staffing were to be at the same percentage as the percentage of Negroes in a given state, though in reality the support was much less.
The Kentucky NYA Office was located in Louisville, KY at 9th and Broadway, with Robert K. Salyers as director with district offices in Madisonville, Louisville, Lexington, and Paintsville. Theodore E. Brown was State Supervisor of Negro Activities.
For the program year 1936-37, there were 415 Negro college students who received NYA aid at Kentucky State Industrial College for Colored Persons [now Kentucky State University], West Kentucky Industrial College [now West Kentucky Community and Technical College], and Louisville Municipal College for Negroes [which was folded into the University of Louisville]. Funding for graduate students was administered by the Washington Office, and Negroes from Kentucky could apply for out-of-state assistance (There were no in-state graduate programs in Kentucky for African Americans.)
High school and elementary students received up to $6 per month for their work; in the program year 1936-37, there were 1,265 Negro youth of Kentucky employed through the NYA school aid program. Participants who were out of school were certified members of relief families who were employed in projects such as sewing, carpentry, construction and repair work on schools and public property, child care, and recreation.
Not much was done in the area of recreational opportunities for Negroes. Projects were established for supervised play leaders at playgrounds and nursery schools; recreational education institutes were held to train participants. Projects were located in Louisville, Covington, Bowling Green, Winchester, and Paducah. Some of the crafts and toys made by the NYA youth were given away at the Community Christmas Tree while others were showcased at the NYA exhibit displayed during the KNEA meeting in Louisville. The recreation work was often cited as having decreased delinquency.
In 1938, Harvey C. Russell, Sr. was the state NYA Supervisor of Negro Activities in Kentucky [source: Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 9, issues 1-3 (January-February 1938), pp. 47-50; see also "N. Y. A. offers employment opportunities for state youth," Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, vol. 13, issue 2, pp. 29-31.
For more detailed information see Negro Youth and the National Youth Administration in Kentucky, by T. E. Brown; W. G. Daniel and C. L. Miller, "The Participation of the Negro in the National Youth Administration Program," The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 7, issue 3, (July 1938), pp. 357-365; and National Youth Administration for Kentucky: Basic Information on NYA Workers in Kentucky by the NYA Work Project. National Youth Administration photographs are available online at Google.