ATLANTA – The Okefenokee Swamp Park has landed $497,000 in federal funding for a research project aimed at telling the story of a group of young Black Americans who worked to develop the park during the Great Depression.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a nationwide New Deal program formed to provide employment and vocational training to young Americans ages 18 through 25. CCC Company 1433, a group of nearly 200 Black Americans from Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, worked on conservation projects in the Okefenokee, building bridges and roads, planting trees and developing recreational facilities.

The federal funds will go toward a project dedicated to collecting, preserving, and digitizing historical records and manuscripts pertaining to Company 1433’s efforts. The database the project produces will be made accessible to the public to promote an awareness of the historical and cultural significance of the CCC to both the swamp and surrounding communities.

“The Okefenokee region was a crucial safe haven for many Black Americans in the New Deal era,” said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., who requested the federal funding for the project. “This all-Black Civilian Conservation Corps revitalized the broader region, which is important and often overlooked in our state’s history.”

The federal funds will be used to hire an archivist to work with project leaders to complete the work within three years. Collected material will be made available online through the University of Georgia’s Digital Library.

Also, park officials will work with teachers in nine counties surrounding the swamp to incorporate findings from the project into existing eighth-grade social studies curricula.

“These funds will help us preserve an untold yet critically important piece of history … encouraging a deeper appreciation and understanding of the swamp’s intrinsic, economic, and cultural value,” said Kim Bednarek, the park’s executive director.

The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, encompassing roughly 700 square miles. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, renowned worldwide for exceptional habitat and species diversity, is preparing a bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Okefenokee Swamp Park was founded in 1946 at the northern entrance to the swamp near Waycross to provide visitor access and interpretive education aimed at developing an appreciation of the swamp’s wildlife, cultural and natural beauty.