Florida Folklife Program

Press Release

The American Folklife Center
at the Library of Congress
Presents
FLORIDA FOLKLIFE FROM THE WPA COLLECTIONS

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections is now available online through the Library of Congress American Memory Web site at the following URL:

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/flwpahtml/

The online presentation provides access to 376 sound recordings made in Florida in 1939-40 under the auspices of several government-funded arts projects. Using recording equipment loaned by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center) at the Library of Congress, the WPA staff documented folktales, life histories, and sacred and secular music of cultures and communities throughout Florida. The recordings are augmented by 106 accompanying materials, including recording logs, song text transcriptions, correspondence between Florida WPA workers and Library of Congress personnel from 1937 to 1942, and an essay of Florida folklife by Zora Neale Hurston. The online presentation of these rich historic materials is made possible by the generous support of The Texaco Foundation.

WPA staff traveled throughout twelve Florida counties with the library's recording equipment in tow, collecting blues and work songs from menhaden fishing boats, railroad gangs, and turpentine camps; and children's songs, dance music, and religious music from schools, homes and churches. They often interviewed the performers, documenting their lives as well as their folksongs. Links are provided from the Florida WPA collection to the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 collection—already available through the Library of Congress American Memory Website—when a performer's life has been documented in writing as well as on acetate disk.

Florida writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, an editor for the Florida Federal Writers' Project from 1938-39, described pockets of rich cultural material in the state in her essay, "Proposed Recording Expedition into the Floridas," included with the online presentation. Hurston is also showcased as a performer, singing and explaining folksongs she learned in Florida and the Bahamas.

American Memory is a project of the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress, which in collaboration with other institutions, is bringing important American historical materials to citizens around the world. Through American Memory, some eighty collections—including six based on materials created by the WPA—of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, motion pictures, and text are now available online, free to the public for educational purposes. This collection is the tenth collection from the American Folklife Center to be added to American Memory Web site. All American Memory collections can be accessed through:

http://memory.loc.gov.

Please direct any questions to ndlpcoll@loc.gov.