The Civil Works Administration (CWA)

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was another of the New Deal alphabet agencies. It was created in 1933 and lasted only four and a half months. With a budget of $200,000,000.00 per month, it was designed to get the unemployed through the winter. It employed 4.2 million people building over 300,000 miles of roads, countless playgrounds and schools as well as employing over 3,000 writers. The average CWA wage was $15 a week, two and a half times the normal relief payment. Alabama blues singer, Walter Roland, was overjoyed with his wage of $9.60 a week (van Rijn, Roosevelt Blues, p. 72.)

“CWA Blues,was written and sung by Joe Pullam (1934). Pullam sings the praises of the CWA, especially that he no longer needs to live off the support of his girlfriend. (


CWA, look what you done for me

You brought me my good gal back and lifted Depression off-a-me

I was hungry and broke, because I wasn’t drawing any pay

But in stepped President Roosevelt, Lord, with his mighty CWA

I don’t need no woman now nor no place to stay

Because I’m makin’ my own living, now with the CWA

You didn’t ever think, woman, some day things would come my way

And, especially baby, in the form of the CWA

So you go your way, I don’t want you any more

I made a very great change in nineteen thirty-four

CWA you’re the best pal we ever knew

You’re killing old man Depression, and the breadlines too.

Here are the lyrics to another song with the same name, “CWA Blues” by Walter Roland (1934). (looking for audio)

My woman told me to get up this morning: ”Go get yourself a job,

I want you to try to take care of me, while the times are hard.”

Chorus: I hollered, ”Hey, woman, Great God, is you goin’ my way?”

Says “I believe I’ll go try to get me a job, workin’ for that CWA.”

She told me, “let’s go fall in line here, talkin’ about they got jobs for sale,

If you want a good job, just go to that old county jail.”

You know that CWA, they’ll pay you nine-sixty a week,

You don’t have to worry about that welfare, somethin’ to eat,

You know, I told my woman this morning, just about half past three,

I said, “Wake up early, and come go with me.”

You know, I wanna take my woman down to that welfare store,

I’m gonna carry her this time, and I won’t have to carry her no more.