Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Film about Federal Writers Project of the WPA

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story,” a documentary about the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) premiered on the Smithsonian Channel on September 6.

As literary and arts organizations struggle for survival around the US, and 15 million workers are unemployed, this is a great time to consider whether new artistic and cultural programs such as the Federal Writers Project could be established, reinvigorated and expanded to create jobs and enrich lives around the U.S.

From the Smithsonian Channel web site:

"The Federal Writers Project was one of four arts programs under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Project employed thousands of unemployed writers, including Richard Wright, Saul Bellow and John Cheever, to fan out across America, interview its citizens, and produce a portrait of the USA from the ground up in a series of state travel guides. They captured a unique portrait of 1930’s Americana."

"But what began as a program to create guidebooks for every state ended up igniting a storm of controversy when writers sought out not only the triumphs of America, but also its tragedies. At its peak, the Project employed over 6,600 people in all 48 states. They included a handful of published authors, old newspaper reporters, former school teachers and others. Two of its better-known workers, Studs Terkel (in one of his last interviews before passing away in October 2008) and Stetson Kennedy, are interviewed for the documentary. In addition to Kennedy and Terkel, the documentary features interviews with a diverse group of leading authors, poets, and historians, including Douglas Brinkley and David Bradley, who provide witty and heartbreaking insights into the Project. "

More info from Smithsonian Channel web site. Local events relating to the film and the Federal Writers Project are planned at libraries and other places around the US.

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WPA Posters

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