American Memory

Life History Manuscripts from the Folklore Project,  WPA Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940
People Collage
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

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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 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts.
Special Presentation:
Voices from the Thirties: An Introduction to the WPA Life Histories Collection

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