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1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

3. A Lost Cause?

Episode Summary

This episode looks at communities that have suffered neglect from official history, and the example of African American landmarks and burial grounds in Virginia. Some families and communities have pushed to reclaim their place and spaces, often using tools employed earlier by the Federal Writers’ Project. Project workers often consulted landmarks and cemetery headstones to present a fuller picture of local history.


In Southern states, the Federal Writer's Project encountered the Lost Cause, the idea, which emerged after the Civil War, that aimed to rewrite the war's meaning and origins in slavery. The myth shaped the environment for white writers of the WPA Guide to Virginia, and it continues to hold influence even today. Yet the field research underlying the WPA guide – the details the federal writers uncovered in records, interviews and landmarks – as well as another Project publication, The Negro in Virginia, provide a way to untangle the Lost Cause myth. This episode probes that history with poet Kiki Petrosino as she researches her family's Virginia history, and with historians at the Library of Virginia, the Alexandria Black History Museum, and the University of Richmond.

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Audrey Davis, historian

Julian Hayter, historian

Gregg Kimball, historian

Kiki Petrosino, poet

Alton Darden, Helping Hand Cemetery Trustee

Maurice Darden, Helping Hand Cemetery Trustee

Dolores Peterson, Helping Hand Cemetery Trustee

Further Reading

The Negro in Virginia (Library of Virginia)

White Blood by Kiki Petrosino

The Dream Is Lost by Julian Hayter

Long Past Slavery by Catherine A. Stewart

Rewriting America edited by Sara Rutkowski

How The Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

American City, Southern Place by Gregg Kimball


Hosted by: Chris Haley

Director: Andrea Kalin

Producers: Andrea Kalin, David A. Taylor and James Mirabello

Writer: David A. Taylor

Editor: Ethan Oser

Co-Editor: Julie Chalhoub

Story Editing: Michael May

Additional voices provided by:

Skip Coblyn, James Mirabello, Jared Buggage, Jerry Ray, and Danielle Nance

Featuring music and archival material from:


Library of Congress

National Archives and Records Administration



ABC News


Produced with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Virginia Humanities

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