The People's Recorder

The People's Recorder

The People’s Recorder is a podcast about the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project: what it achieved, where it fell short, and what it means for Americans today. Each episode features stories of individual writers, new places, and the project's impact on people's lives. Along the way we hear from historians, novelists, and others who shed light on that experience and unexpected connections to American society today. The People's Recorder recounts a forgotten chapter in our history. Join us on an unvarnished tour of America. The People’s Recorder is produced by Spark Media with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Florida Humanities, Virginia Humanities, Wisconsin Humanities, California Humanities and Humanities Nebraska. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Episodes

April 18, 2024 30 mins

Episode Summary:


In the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was already a nationally known novelist, anthropologist and member of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Yet she saw her publishing income dry up during the Great Depression even with the publication of her best-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. When she took a job with the Writers’ Project in Florida, her first assignment was to write for the WPA Guide to Florida. ...

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As detailed in episodes 2 and 3, Roscoe Lewis’ unit on the Federal Writers’ Project conducted interviews with the survivors of slavery in Virginia. One member of the unit, a former teacher named Susie RC Byrd, interviewed dozens of formerly enslaved persons in Petersburg in a series of weekly meetings. Lewis and Byrd also arranged to borrow equipment from the University of Virginia to record songs performed at ...

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March 21, 2024 27 mins

Episode Summary:


This episode looks at communities that have suffered neglect from official history, and the example of African American landmarks and burial grounds in Virginia. Some families and communities have pushed to reclaim their place and spaces, often using tools employed earlier by the Federal Writers’ Project. Project workers often consulted landmarks and cemetery headstones to present a fuller picture of local ...

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Episode Summary:


Get to know The People's Recorder host Chris Haley a little bit better. Chris is Director of Research, Education and Outreach, and the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland State Archives. He's also an actor, a poet, and a filmmaker.  


In this special bonus episode, he speaks with Spark Media's Bright Djampa about growing up as his Uncle Alex's iconic book "Roots" became a phenome...

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February 22, 2024 24 mins


Episode Summary:


In the depths of the Great Depression, the U.S government hired out-of-work writers and laid-off reporters and sent them out to record the stories of all kinds of Americans. Dubbed the Federal Writers’ Project, historians have called the program a giant "listening project." 


In this introductory episode, host Chris Haley sets the stage, laying out 1930s America, the New Deal, and the cultural forces ...

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February 22, 2024 36 mins

Episode Summary:


The Federal Writers’ Project set out to create a series of books that held up a mirror to America, and chronicled communities that had long been ignored. Howard University professor Sterling Brown led the agency’s effort to document African American history in a series of books. In Virginia, chemistry professor Roscoe Lewis led a small team to produce the first book in that national series, titled The Negro...

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June 15, 2023 4 mins

Join us on an unvarnished tour of America.

 

The People’s Recorder is a podcast about the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project: what it achieved, where it fell short, and what it means for Americans today.


Each episode features stories of individual writers, new places, and the project's impact on people's lives. Along the way we hear from historians, novelists, and others who shed light on that experience and unexpected connectio...

Mark as Played

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