Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937-1942

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In American Memory:

America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945.
The images in the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are among the most famous documentary photographs ever produced. Created by a group of distinguished photographers working for the U.S. government, the images show Americans in every part of the nation. In the early years, the project emphasized rural life and the negative effects of the Great Depression, farm mechanization, and the Dust Bowl. In later years, the photographers turned their attention to the mobilization effort for World War II. The core of the collection consists of about 164,000 black-and-white photographs. This release provides access to over 55,000 of these images; future additions will expand the black-and-white offering. The FSA-OWI photographers also produced about 1600 color photographs during the latter days of the project. The collections are held by the Prints and Photographs Division.

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.
These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states.

Born in Slavery: Ex-Slave Narratives of the Federal Writers' Project.
First-hand recollections of slavery by thousands of former slaves were recorded in the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration. This collection from the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs Divisions includes texts of more than 2000 narratives and 500 photographs.

By the People, For the People: Works Projects Administration Posters, 1935-43.
This collection of 900 posters produced in the 1930s under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration captures a significant period in the history of American visual design. Now held in the Prints and Photographs Division, these influential images were originally created to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and programs to promote housing, health, safety, and education.

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties.
The WPA California Folk Music Project is a multiformat ethnographic field collection that includes sound recordings, still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California. The collection comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians. This elaborate New Deal project was organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell for the Northern California Work Projects Administration. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and cosponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), this undertaking was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-language folk music in one region of the United States.

Creative Americans: Portraits by Carl Van Vechten, 1932-1964.
The Carl Van Vechten Photographs Collection at the Library of Congress consists of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance, such as Zora Neale Hurston. A much smaller portion of the collection is an assortment of American landscapes.

The New Deal Stage: Selections from the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939.
This online presentation includes over 13,000 images of items selected from the Federal Theatre Project Collection at the Library of Congress. Featured here are stage and costume designs, still photographs, posters, and scripts for productions of Macbeth and The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus as staged by Orson Welles, and for Power, a topical drama of the period (over 3,000 images). Also included are 68 other playscripts (6,500 images) and 168 documents selected from the Federal Theatre Project Administrative Records (3,700 images). The Federal Theatre Project was one of five arts-related projects established during the first term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt under the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Reclaiming the Everglades: South Florida's Natural History, 1884-1934.
More than 9,000 texts and photographs from the University of Miami, Florida International University, and the Historical Museum of South Florida document the intertwined natural and human histories of the Everglades region through photographs, drawings, writings, correspondence, and related materials from politicians, landowners, real-estate companies, scientists, naturalists, engineers, and Indian-rights activists.

Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip.
A multiformat ethnographic field collection that includes approximately 700 sound recordings, as well as photographic prints, fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States collecting folksongs. John Avery Lomax and his wife, Ruby Terrill Lomax, recorded approximately 25 hours of music from more than 300 performers. These recordings represent a broad spectrum of musical styles, including ballads, blues, children's songs, cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs.

Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941.
The collection is an online presentation of a multiformat ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera generated during two separate documentation trips supported by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center).


In the Archive of Folk Culture:

The Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress houses diverse and international multiformat, ethnographic collections, including 1.5 million photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and moving images. It is America's first national archive of traditional life, and one of the oldest and largest such repositories in the world.

The archive's earliest collections of recordings and manuscripts were assembled between 1928 and 1932 by its first head, Robert Winslow Gordon. These included over nine hundred cylinder and disc recordings of African- and Anglo-American folk music. Between 1933 and 1942, John and Alan Lomax directed the Archive; they, along with collectors such as Sidney Robertson Cowell, Herbert Halpert, and others greatly enriched the archive's collections through large-scale recording expeditions, often with assistance from other government agencies, particularly the Resettlement Administration and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The collection has also grown through the contributions of many individuals and through gift, loan, and exchange arrangements with other archives and museums.

Every region and state of the United States is represented in the collection. In addition to recordings of African- and Anglo-American traditions, there are examples from many other ethnic groups in the United States: French, Jewish, Mexican, and Polish traditions are well-represented, and the American Folklife Center's collection of field-recordings of American-Indian song and spoken traditions is the largest in the world. American-Indian materials of special importance include the 3,448 cylinders of the Frances Densmore-Smithsonian Institution collection, and the earliest field recordings made anywhere in the world: Jesse Walter Fewkes's 1890 cylinder recordings of Passamaquoddy Indian music and narrative from Maine.

Documentary materials from Center field projects and from equipment loan program-supported research are housed here. The archive also houses the nation's premier collection of the many exhibition catalogs, periodicals, and other materials on local folklife produced over the last twenty-five years by the growing network of state and local folklife programs throughout the United States.

Contact the Reference staff of the American Folklife Center for further information about the Archive collections.


In Other Institutions:

NOTE: The Library of Congress does not maintain these Internet sites. Users should direct concerns about these links to their respective site administrators or Web masters.

Bienes Center for the Literary Arts (external link) at the Broward County Library, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Established in 1988, the Bienes Center houses, preserves, and shares rare books and special collections, and provides a place for related lectures, programs, and exhibits. Its Federal Writers' Project and Other Works Projects Administration (WPA) Materials collection, donated by Jean Fitzgerald, includes books, periodicals, pamphlets, and correspondence by writers, historians, poets, novelists, and artists who worked on New Deal projects in the 1930s.

Florida Folklife Collection (external link) at the Florida State Archives (external link). The Florida Folklife Collection includes approximately 150 cubic feet of paper records (including field notes and administrative files) and thousands of audio and video recordings, which date from the 1930s through 2001. Created by Florida folklorists, the Collection consists of 88 individual series that document the performances by, interviews with, and fieldwork surveys of folk musicians, artisans, storytellers, folklife interpreters, and other Florida peoples and their traditions. Topics include children's lore, foodways, religious traditions, Native American culture, numerous musical traditions, art, maritime traditions, ethnic folk culture, material culture, and occupational lore. These records document the living traditions of Florida's peoples.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA is an independent federal agency that helps preserve the United States of America's history by overseeing the management of all federal records. Their mission is to ensure ready access to the essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of federal officials, and the national experience. NARA houses nearly 5,000 cubic feet of materials relating to the Work Projects Administration (WPA). A guide to these materials is available online.

Oral History Collection, Georgia Government Documentation Project, Special Collections Department (external link), William Russell Pullen Library, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia. The Special Collections Department of the Georgia State University William Russell Pullen Library collects and preserves unique and rare historical materials in selected subject areas. The Stetson Kennedy Oral History Collection includes 238 pages of transcripts of interviews conducted by Peggy Bulger in 1988.

Publication of Archival Library & Museum Materials (external link) of the State University System of Florida (external link).This cooperative initiative to provide digital access to important source materials includes the Florida Heritage Collection (external link) of digitized materials representing Florida's history, culture, arts, literature, sciences, and social sciences.

Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department (external link), University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Southern Historical Collection was established in 1930. Long known for its strong collections of antebellum plantation, Civil War, and Reconstruction South materials, UNC continues to acquire eighteenth- and nineteenth-century manuscripts along with substantial collections of twentieth-century materials. The holdings are diverse, and include Federal Writers' Project Papers (external link) and Stetson Kennedy Papers, 1936-1978 (external link).

Special Collections Department (external link) of the University of South Florida's Tampa Campus Library. USF's Special Collections Department houses more than one million items, and many services are available to users via the Internet. Special collections include the Stetson Kennedy Papers (external link) and the Works Progress Administration Florida Negro Papers (external link).

P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History (external link), Department of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville. The Yonge Library's guiding mission is to preserve Florida's heritage and to encourage and assist in the writing of Florida history. Its holdings include Zora Neale Hurston Rare Books & Manuscripts (external link).