The book world was baffled when federal legislation was introduced to hire unemployed authors to produce a written record of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society.
The $60 million show is similar to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era Federal Writers Project, a program of the Works Progress Administration that employed thousands of writers, playwrights, poets, and photographers to create a vibrant history of the United States by producing works such as guidebooks, plays, radio productions, and oral histories for former slaves.
The program eventually encountered an uproar when Republicans claimed it was a breeding ground for the Communists.
All in all, the 48 Tate brochures are first-hand dates and driving tours, with separate books for large cities. For beginners, books. Big cities like New York City and New Orleans had their own travel books. For starters, the books were similar in scope to more recent AAA travel guides, which tell travelers where to visit and stay. Most state guidebooks have been reissued. The Louisiana “Gumbo Ya-Ya” guide is highly sought after by collectors.
Several other guidebook writers and projects have gone on to notable careers, including Nelson Algren, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Ellie Kazan, and Orson Welles.
In the case of Michigan, most of the writers were little known and their obscurity continues to this day. To be fair, over 1,200 lead writers were chosen because they weren’t very well known.
Creativity was not always encouraged, and public and legislative opinion was taken into account when editing the evidence.
For example, the photo of Calamity Jane’s tombstone was initially accompanied by a clever comment: “In this age of the Gold Rush, when men and women were scarce, Jane’s calamity made her living, but now she sleeps alone under this sign.” Federal Writers Project Director Henry Allsberg crossed out the word “alone.”
A new book, The Bend Republic: How the New Deal Propelled Writers to Rediscover America by Scott Borchert, details many of these stories, including how women made up 40% of the cast.
Prior to Borchert, author Jerre Mangione wrote the final history of the Federal Writers Project. “Deal of Dreams” published in 1972. It was still alive for many of its participants most of whom are now dead.
If Representatives Leo and Fernandez’s bill were turned into law, book censorship could become capricious, much like the recent controversy over teaching the history of race relations in the United States. Recently, the Texas State Museum of History, tasked with overseeing appropriate letters on the national history of Texas, canceled the author’s program that would have featured The Fall of the Alamo, which recounts a more historically accurate depiction of the Alamo.
Texas is one of the largest consumers and printers of textbooks, which reach the hands of children across the country. The censors seem to want to preserve an alternate history of the Texas road to the state.
Over the nine years of Project Federalist Writers’ history, he was often called to account for his writers’ supposed socialist and communist tendencies, which proved to be the ultimate in decline. She particularly targeted the Federal Theater Project and the Living Newspaper, which was a stinging, satirical look at today’s news. It was very similar to the famous 1960s show “This Was The Week That Was”.
The Federal Theater Project is designed to hire playwrights. In more than a dozen cities, the project targeted African American theater, which has been heavily criticized for its focus on racial injustice. Funding for the Federal Theater Project was withdrawn because opponents claimed that “racial equality is a vital part of dictatorship and communist practices”.
The BPA guides were pure in the sense that they predated flashy resorts, highways, casinos, and fast food outlets. It was a slower, quieter time. A time when I waited for a ferry for hours, had a picnic lunch at state-sponsored tables in roadside gardens, and then, if I’m lucky, stayed in a hotel.
Unfortunately, many works completed by the Federal Writers Project are still not available to researchers due to cataloging errors. Only recently were the writers able to extract some of the written contents, discovering pieces about regional cooking.
The devil will be in the details of the proposed revival of the Federal Writers Project. Writers are likely to deal with central topics and their work may only exist in the digital world. One thing is for sure, there will be government censors and public opinion watching over their shoulders.