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1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

1. A Big Listening Project

4. Who's Recording Who?

Episode Summary

In the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was already a nationally known novelist, anthropologist and member of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Yet she saw her publishing income dry up during the Great Depression even with the publication of her best-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. When she took a job with the Writers' Project in Florida, her first assignment was to write for the WPA Guide to Florida. In the hands of truth-seekers like Hurston and a young white co-worker, Stetson Kennedy, the Florida WPA guidebook would reflect a wide range of Florida life, "warts and all," including a report of violent voter suppression in the 1920s—until editors started to push back. This episode follows that conflict.

Hurston also moved the Writers’ Project to record the songs and folktales of Florida culture. We hear from historians and bestselling novelist James McBride about how that work still resonates today.

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Douglas Brinkley, historian

Peggy Bulger, folklorist

Tameka Hobbs, historian

Stetson Kennedy, author and Project alum

James McBride, author

Flo Turcotte, historian

Further Reading

WPA Guide to Florida

Go Gator and Muddy the Water by Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Pamela Bordelon

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels To Be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston

Palmetto County by Stetson Kennedy


Hosted by: Chris Haley

Directed by: Andrea Kalin

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

Writer: David A. Taylor

Editor: Ethan Oser

Assistant Editor: Amy A. Young

Story Editing: Michael May

Additional voices provided by:

Amesha McElveen and Skip Coblyn 

Featuring music and archival material from:

Joseph Vitarelli

Bradford Ellis


Library of Congress

National Archives and Records Administration

Produced with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Florida Humanities,

and the Stetson Kennedy Foundation

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