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1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

Bonus Episodes

Special Interview with Host Chris Haley

Get to know The People's Recorder host Chris Haley a little bit better. Chris is Director of Research, Education and Outreach, and the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland State Archives. He's also an actor, a poet, and a filmmaker.

In this special bonus episode, he speaks with Spark Media's Bright Djampa about growing up as his Uncle Alex's iconic book "Roots" became a phenomenon, his own love of history and genealogy, and the importance of the work done by those on the Federal Writers' Project.

Songs of Freedom from Petersburg, Virginia

As detailed in episodes 2 and 3, Roscoe Lewis’ unit on the Federal Writers’ Project conducted interviews with the survivors of slavery in Virginia. One member of the unit, a former teacher named Susie RC Byrd, interviewed dozens of formerly enslaved persons in Petersburg in a series of weekly meetings. Lewis and Byrd also arranged to borrow equipment from the University of Virginia to record songs performed at one of these meetings.

 

We are sharing two of those recordings with you today, “Stomp Down” and “Gonna Shout.”  Please note, the audio quality is poor, but what is amazing is that these are the actual voices of those who survived slavery.  It’s easy to think that slavery was something that happened a long time ago, but hearing these voices, you’ll feel that slavery was not in the distant past.

The soloist in “Stomp Down” is Sister Charlotte Taylor and the soloist in “Gonna Shout” is Reverend Ishrael Massie.

Zora Neale Hurston Original Recordings

As host Chris Haley said, Zora Neale Hurston was a homegrown Florida treasure, known for her wit, charm, and a true gift for collecting folklore.  As part of her work with the Writers’ Project, she made over a dozen recordings with audio equipment borrowed from the Library of Congress.

She knew about the equipment from earlier field recordings she had made with folklorist Alan Lomax.  So, when she had the chance to use it for the Writers’ Project, Hurston “checked it out” from the Library.

We do use short excerpts in episode 4, but the full recordings really are a lot of fun to listen to.  After you listen to these, we encourage you to go to the Library of Congress to listen to more!

Adapting Life-Story Interviews to Crises Today

The Federal Writers' Project interviews, collected in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, have inspired generations with their personal experiences of American life. The Writers' Project pioneered oral history and the idea of documentary history from the grassroots up.

In this bonus, following the episode on the Writers' Project interviews in Florida, we hear excerpts from oral histories recoded with the nonprofit group StoryCorps. In two conversations, four Floridians talked about their experiences early in the COVID-19 pandemic when frontline workers, often people of color, were particularly vulnerable.

StoryCorps, launched in 2003 with original WPA writer Studs Terkel on hand, is one of the many oral history initiatives directly inspired by the Writers' Project interviews.

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