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Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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These life histories were compiled and transcribed 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.
The mission of the Library of Congress is to make its
resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain
and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future
generations. The goal of the Library's National Digital Library Program is to
offer broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents as
a contribution to education and lifelong learning.
The Library of Congress presents these documents as part of the record of
the past. These primary historical documents reflect the
attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress
does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which
may contain materials offensive to some readers.
Voices from the Thirties: An Introduction to the WPA Life Histories Collection
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