New Deal's Federal Writers' Project Celebrated at Kansas City Public Library
August 21, 2009
The Kansas City Public Library welcomes historian Jerrold Hirsch for a presentation called Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project on Wednesday, September 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) helped define America and American literature by supporting literary talent during the Great Depression. This event kicks off a six-week series of eventsat the Kansas City Public Library that commemorates the 75th anniversary of this New Deal program with speakers, film screenings and a focus on important writers – like Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Saul Bellow – who joined its ranks.
As a leading cultural component of the New Deal program of political and economic reform, the FWP writers seized their opportunity to conduct a nationwide study of American identity – condensed into detailed guides to every state in the Union as well as oral history compilations. The project brought working class artists operating on a grassroots level together with white collar administrative intellectuals in Washington, D.C. Director Henry Alsberg sought to redefine American culture by embracing its diversity, and his agents considered the challenges of creating literature in a new urban-industrialized world. Alsberg thought that by introducing America to Americans, the FWP could both celebrate diversity and promote national unity.
Hirsch is a history professor at Truman State University. His specialty includes 20th century American intellectual and cultural history. He is author of the book Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project, published by the University of North Carolina Press.
Admission is free. Call 816.701.3407 to RSVP online. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage located at 10th and Baltimore.
Soul of a People programs at the Kansas City Public Library are sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life.