During the Depression, the Works Project Administration put American men to work on large-scale, highly-visible undertakings, like dam building and highway construction. Women, too, needed work, and some of them found it through WPA Sewing Rooms, where they earned wages for making clothing for low-income Americans. [more inside]
Why Aren't Stories Like '12 Years a Slave' Told at Southern Plantation Museums?
Evil is not a word you hear, though, when you visit one of the hundreds of plantation-house museums dotting the South. Instead, these historic sites usually lure tourists with their stunning architecture and wealth of antiques, as the privileged members of the planter-class denied themselves nothing. They had the finest china and silver of the 18th and 19th centuries; European-made furniture like settees and tea caddies; the most expensive rugs, drapes, linens, and clothing that money could buy. Even the toys and kitchen utensils offer a glimpse into the privileged life in the antebellum period, and tours play this aspect up, connecting these objects emotionally to the stories of the white planters. Many of these museums let visitors walk away without considering that all of these exquisite things were accumulated through the violence and forced labor of slavery.[more inside]
The following represents a sample of Zora Neale Hurston music from the Folklife Collection.
Above is a compilation of all of the known Zora Neale Hurston sound recordings* created while she worked for the WPA in the 1930s. Today, the original recordings are housed at the Library of Congress. Hurston made recordings for the WPA in 1935 and again in 1939.[more inside]
"Cheever wasn't the only one who found inspiration at the Writers' Project [NYT]. Others included Conrad Aiken, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Arna Bontemps, Malcolm Cowley, Edward Dahlberg, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Rahv, Kenneth Rexroth, Harold Rosenberg, Studs Terkel, Margaret Walker, Richard Wright and Frank Yerby. These federal employees produced what would become the renowned American Guide Series, comprising volumes for each of the 48 states that then existed, as well as Alaska."
In 1934, the Public Works of Art Project was born. It served to offer employment to many artists, and produced thousands of works of art, including 2000 posters and 1100 murals, primarily in post offices, across the United States. [more inside]
“We shall have a man in the White House who will feel as responsible for American civilization as he does for American power and prosperity.”
"It was no accident that arts funding was once again brought to national attention with the exhibit Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. Since the 80s, the enemies of the NEA have not been those with differences of opinion about what art should be supported or how. Instead they oppose any support at all for art of any kind." Hide/Seek, Culture Wars and the History of the NEA (NSFW, art)
The Pack Horse Librarian (Photo Gallery) was a welcomed and much anticipated sight in the isolated and hard-to-reach mountains and hollers of Eastern Kentucky between 1935 and 1943. They brought books and magazines, retrieved already-read materials for delivery at another stop on the route, read to residents, took requests, and generally served homes, schools, villages, mining camps, and anywhere there were people who wanted to read. [more inside]
"If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away." Audio recordings from interviews with former slaves, conducted by WPA folklorists and others, including the Lomaxes and Zora Neale Hurston. Only these twenty-six audio recordings of people formerly enslaved in the antebellum American South have ever been found.
Bridge to Somewhere: Lessons from the New Deal, an American RadioWorks documentary, chronicles Roosevelt's recovery-through-work programs (the CCC, the WPA, and the PWA) and their lasting impact on America's infrastructure. Rich with oral histories and actualities.
"New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources was created to serve as a starting point for research using Library of Congress collections of New Deal program materials." Includes links to numerous collections of digitized materials, including photos, posters, music, manuscripts and more. [more inside]
John is not really dull, he may only need his eyes examined. Remarkable posters from the Work Progress Administration, 1936-1943. You can view the collection highlights or the entire archive. A few personal favorites, including a surprisingly fetching cow. The site also includes some interesting historical and critical resources. Now get back to work!
By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA. From the website at the Library of Congress, the posters consist of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection of more than 900 is the largest. These striking silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. For examples, see a poster on the health dangers of Syphilis and one for the play Alison's House: A Poetic Romance.