“Did you see all the old folks in the Center, some older than me and I’m 57. The younger people come at night, they work in the day time. Education, Education, keep fightin for it.”
-From an interview with a woman in an adult education class at Abyssinia Baptist Church, West 130th Street, New York City, May 2, 1939.
Poignant, powerful voices from the Great Depression can be heard on the American Life Histories website. Over 2000 people were interviewed as a part of the Federal Writers’ Project, and the details of how they lived, worked, worshiped, and played have been digitized and are available on this site.
Their stories are presented in narrative form, in dialogue, and as case histories. Here’s Betty, the Wellesley graduate, who took to the streets to support her boyfriend in a sanatorium in Arizona. There are bootleggers, beauticians, and buffalo hunters, mill workers, merchants and midwives. All told their stories to the historians, writers and teachers of the Work Progress Administration who traveled the United States from 1935-1939 collecting stories of ordinary Americans.
More familiar today than these intriguing interviews are the state and regional guide books that the Federal Writers’ Project produced. JTCC Libraries own the Virginia: a Guide to the Old Dominion, published in 1941.
Explore this rich archive of the Federal Writers’ Project at this Web Guide published by the Library of Congress where many of the documents are housed.