Blogs > Cliopatria > American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1940

Nov 2, 2006 1:56 am


American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1940



The work done by the staff of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) has become an invaluable resource for historians of the society and culture of the era. This site makes that resource available to a wide audience of scholars.

The site features approximately 2,900 life histories from 1936-1940 written by the staff of the WPA Folklore Project. The histories, in the form of drafts and revisions, vary from narrative to dialogue, report to case history. A typical history describes an informant's family, education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet, and other observations on society and culture. The histories are available in both text and facsimile versions of original interview documents. Visitors can select a particular U.S. state or search the archive by keyword. The special presentation, "Voices from the Thirties" provides the context for the creation of the Life Histories Collection and includes excerpts from sample interviews. This multifaceted collection provides materials for teaching and researching subjects such as slavery and 19th-century American folk cultures as well as social and cultural history of the Great Depression.

Read a more in-depth review written by Thomas Thurston of the New Deal Network at historymatters.gmu.edu. Or explore other website reviews at History Matters.

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