To celebrate Black History Month, the Friends of Huntsville State Park are putting together an exhibit about the 200 black workers who built the park during the Great Depression.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was created soon after the 1929 stock market crash, which led to nationwide unemployment and the beginning of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected president in 1932, took on the incredibly high rate of unemployment with a number of different programs designed to create more jobs.

One of those programs was the CCC, whose goal was to reduce unemployment, especially with young men, and to preserve the country’s natural resources.

To show visitors what things were like when the CCC was in full operation, information is displayed in antique suitcases, each one dealing with a different subject area.

Frances Oster-Dibbern, vice president of the Friends of Huntsville State Park, said the process began when Walker County donated land to the state.

“Walker County acquired the property and then donated the property to the Texas State Parks Board,” she said. “It was donated with the understanding that they would build a park here in the county.”

CCC Company No. 1823 consisted of 200 African-American veterans of World War I and the Spanish-American War. The group may not have been what Roosevelt originally had in mind for the CCC, but Oster-Dibbern said the president’s mind was changed pretty quickly.

“President Roosevelt wanted to target young men between 17 and 25 who were unemployed and able-bodied,” she said. “But it wasn’t long down the line when he realized that there was a lot of able-bodied, skilled, experienced workers. He then ordered that it include older men, which included veterans of the Great World War (WWI) and the Spanish American War.”

CCC workers built 32 state parks in Texas, including Huntsville’s, between 1933 and 1942. Company No. 1823 arrived in Huntsville Oct. 1, 1937 to begin work on Huntsville State Park. Two of the buildings still standing from the original construction, Raven Lodge and the Lake Raven Boathouse, are examples of CCC architecture, as they are close to the ground, with low silhouettes and built with simple tools and native materials.

In addition to Huntsville State Park, this group also built Camp Buffalo Gap, Camp Kerrville and Palmetto State Park.

CCC workers could expect meals, a bed to sleep in and $1 per day in pay to go along with their hard work. A mandatory $25 of their $30 monthly salary was sent to their families, leaving them with only $5 a month. Considering everything they were provided as a member of the CCC, though, Oster-Dibbern said $5 was plenty.

“They gave him clothing, food, medical care, a place to live, clean clothes, it was like being in the Army,” she said.

The exhibit is open this weekend only at Huntsville State Park’s Raven Lodge.

Visitors may come today from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The exhibit is free of charge.

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